Ethical dilemmas, also known as moral dilemmas, have been a problem for ethical theorists as far back as Plato. An ethical dilemma is a situation wherein moral precepts or ethical obligations conflict in such a way that any possible resolution to the dilemma is morally intolerable. In other words, an ethical dilemma is any situation in which guiding moral principles cannot determine which course of action is right or wrong.
An ethical dilemma, also known as a moral dilemma, is a situation where the guiding principles of our everyday life cannot determine whether a particular course of action is right or wrong. The moral precepts conflict in such a way as the possible resolutions to the dilemma are in no way tolerable. It is like choosing between two evils but in in which ever choice is chosen, no good will been done.
An ethical dilemma is a condition or problem facing a person that involves complex and often conflicting principles of ethical behavior. A classic example of an ethical dilemma is a salesman; he might face the dilemma of telling the truth about a product and end up losing a sale and his commission.
What Are Stakeholders & Ethical Dilemmas?
Few executives ever see jail even though the results of unethical behavoir can greatly affect stakeholders. The prevalence of major corporate scandals over the years has helped increase public awareness of two major ethics concepts — stakeholders and ethical dilemmas. While these concepts are not unique to the study of business, they tend to be more commonly applied to ethical corporate decision making. For example, the corporate social responsibility movement is a direct application of these ideas in real life business practice. But what exactly do they mean?
o Stakeholders are broadly defined as anyone who is impacted by a decision-maker’s decision. Some examples of corporate stakeholders would be shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, financiers, families of employees and the community in which the corporation is located. Stakeholders could also be less directly related to the operations of a corporation. For example, taxpayers who later need to fund a government rescue of a distressed company, the government and even those suffering the effects of corporate pollution are all stakeholders, in that they have a stake in decisions.
o An ethical dilemma occurs when you have a moral obligation to abide by two different courses of action, but circumstances of the situation only allow for you to choose one of the two courses. An example would be reporting unethical wrongdoing by a boss who is engaged in some form of corporate fraud. Many employees in this situation would be conflicted in their fear of losing their jobs, making it difficult for them to meet obligations to provide for their families. However, by not reporting the wrongdoing, they put other stakeholders in jeopardy.
Stakeholders and Ethical Dilemmas Applied
o Identification of potential stakeholders is essential for ethical behavior. Failure to identify stakeholders has led many to make unethical decisions without ever realizing they had a moral dilemma in the first place. For years companies adhered to the purpose of making profit, legally. At first blush, this sounds reasonable and moral; however, it has also led to many corporate scandals where companies toed legal boundaries and though they never crossed statutory limitations, their poor decision-making hurt many millions of stakeholders. For instance, for many decades paper companies routinely and legally polluted rivers and lakes, making the water undrinkable for humans and uninhabitable for fish and animals.
Dealing With Ethical Dilemmas
o Unfortunately, there is no perfect method for dealing with ethical dilemmas. Regardless of your choice, you will need to face and accept the consequences of your actions. However, there are two ways to look at your situation to help you come to a decision. The first way is to evaluate the potential actions you can take and then pick the course that is least morally problematic. The second involves analyzing the potential outcomes of your actions and selecting the course of action with the most benefits or least harm.