Workplace Ethics

Types of Ethical Dilemmas Found in Workplaces

Everyone has their own unique personal ethics and moral imperatives which induce them to behave in a certain way. Dilemmas emerge when there are conflicting opinions between individuals or even internal impulses regarding these imperatives (Shaw & Barry, 2015). Workplaces are filled with these ethical dilemmas, five types of which will be discussed below.

  1. Conducting Business of a Personal Nature on Company Time

Since most workers spend a lot of their weekday hours working in the office, they are often tempted to do personal things using the time of the company. This can include booking appointments with the doctor using the company’s phone, doing reservations for vacations using the computers and internet connection of the employer, or making freelance phone calls for a side business while still on the company’s time (Shaw & Barry, 2015). On the first glance at these ethical issues, they seem fairly clear. However, dilemmas may exist here, for instance, if the spouse called to notify an employee about an ill child. Could it be okay to use the company’s phone to book an appointment with the doctor in such a case.

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  1. Taking Credit for Work done by others

The employees of a company usually work in teams to come up with marketing campaigns, create new products, or modify services, yet in reality not every person in a group participates equally (Shaw & Barry, 2015). A dilemma question, in such instances, arises when determining whether those who did not or barely contribute deserve equal credit. The question is tricky because if the employees decided to single out their colleagues negatively, this would result in resentment. A similar situation arises when employees accept equal pay rise yet only a few of them deserve it.

  1. Harassing Behavior

Workers often find it difficult to react to a scenario where one of their colleagues is involved in a harassing behavior, which could be of sexual, mental, or physical nature (Shaw & Barry, 2015). Employees often fear to lose their jobs, especially when they want to report a senior worker for harassment. Also, people may worry about being labeled as troublemakers for reporting about inappropriate behavior of their co-workers.

  1. Breaching Company’s Rules and Regulations

Once a person joins a company, they sign a form declaring to uphold the terms and conditions of the company. Penalties are issued for those who breach these agreements. There is dilemma where one breaches the company’s privacy rules when they discuss the company’s data or any other particulars with other people or companies, either willingly or unwillingly (Shaw & Barry, 2015).

  1. Taking Advantage of the Travel Benefits

The behavior is prevalent among those employees who are assigned duties that allow them to be on the move, for example, the marketing personnel. The behavior entails such things as treating job assignments as personal trips where the employee decides to spend most of the work hours enjoying the time at new localities (Shaw & Barry, 2015). Only a fraction of the time spent in these new places is used to do what the employee is paid to achieve. This is purely unethical, although dilemmas exist where a marketer may be required, for instance, to go to a wine tasting party to meet a client.

Impact of These Dilemmas on the Organization, Employees, and Stakeholders

Here, each dilemma will be identified and its impact on organization, employees, and stakeholders analyzed separately.

  1. Conducting Business of a Personal Nature on Company Time

This impacts the organization negatively because a lot of time is misused on activities that are not beneficial to the company. Also, resources are misused thus increasing the costs incurred for the utilized materials.

The employees at hand utilizing company’s time to partake in personal business become unproductive.

When the company’s time is spent on unproductive activities by the employee, the former’s profitability falls. This means the shareholders will be affected, as their shares drop in value.

  1. Taking Credit for Work done by others

This affects the overall motivation of the company’s teams because the participants who are recognized also become reluctant to chip into the teams (Rossouw et al., 2010). A notion that “everyone else can do” develops because after everything is done, the judgment about success or failure is called upon the group, not individuals.

On the part of employees, their overall contribution to team development is hampered. The individuals decide to quit participating altogether thus rendering groups or teams nonfunctional.

  1. Harassing Behavior

The organization’s success and growth are reliant on employees that are fit emotionally, physically, and psychologically. The organization will experience low productivity where an employee is, for instance, sexually harassed but cannot go forward with the case because of fear (Rossouw et al., 2010).

For the employees, harassing behaviors may cause emotional and psychological stress, reducing their productivity. Stress may lead to depression and other psychological problems. Overall, the employees, the organization, and stakeholders will be affected because the output from the employee will drop significantly.

  1. Breaching Company’s Rules and Regulations

Whether done intently or not, where a person leaks a company’s private data to another party, this leads to disclosure of the strengths and weaknesses of the company. It can be used by competitors to gain competitive advantage (Rossouw et al., 2010). In some instances, the weak points can be capitalized on to sue the company for malpractices that were being taken care of behind the closed doors.

The impact of this dilemma on the employee is potential firing or retrenchment in the long run as a result of the company being outcompeted by others. The stakeholder’s impact is the continuous drop of their returns from the company’s profits (Carroll & Buchholtz, 2014).

  1. Taking Advantage of the Travel Benefits

The dilemma created by this constraint is that the organization will perform poorly in terms of marketing for the company’s products. Reduced returns are apparent because the employees charged with disseminating information about the company’s products are enjoying travel times instead of performing marketing research or promoting company’s goods. Shareholders will in the process lose out on the share profits because the firm is slow to capture markets (Carroll & Buchholtz, 2014).

Management’s Role in Preventing Unethical Behaviors

The management’s role is to curb unethical acts. It is performed through the following five strategies: leading by example, reinforcing consequences, showing appreciation to employees, having ethics speakers in the organization, and hire employees that bring value. They are discussed below.

Lead by example: employees usually look up to their managers and business owners for direction on conduct (Brookins, 2017). To achieve this, the manager or owner should make decisions that are ethics-based and monitor people put into leadership positions for displaying such values.

Reinforcing consequences through holding the workers accountable where they are found acting unethically. This starts by the manager informing incoming into the company employees about the rules and regulations during the process of orientation. Where an employee goes out of line in matters of ethics, the manager should refer to the code of conduct and take the required measures to either warn or terminate such an employee (Rossouw et al., 2010).

Showing appreciation to employees: the manager should appreciate the work of loyal employees due to the hard work they undertake in the accomplishment of tasks given to them on a daily basis (Brookins, 2017). A loyal worker is less likely to act unethically. This, therefore, should be a way for the manager or owners to appreciate the work done well on a frequent basis in order to encourage loyalty.

Have ethic speakers in the organization: this involves scheduling a trainer of ethics to visit the organization site to talk about ethical behaviors and their importance to the organization, independent of the industry size. The ethic trainer should employ the training techniques, role playing, handouts, videos, and motivational speaking (Rossouw et al., 2010).

Hire value employees: the managers and business owners should seek to hire employees with individual experiences and education which can prove that the applicants have skills to handle issued tasks (Brookins, 2017). On top of these, the employers seeking to eliminate unethical behaviors should look into their individual values to ascertain that they blend with the company’s culture.


The overall success of any organization lies with proper implementation of ethical standards not only by the employees, but by the entire leadership’s ranks. The dilemmas have a negative effect on the ultimate goals of the organization and shareholders, but they can be avoided through the institution of proper managerial techniques. A combination of managerial techniques will create an ethical culture for the firm and eliminate ethical dilemmas.



Brookins, M. (2017). Business planning & strategy: Making business decisions. Hearst Newspaper, LLC

Carroll, A & Buchholtz, A. (2014). Business and society: Ethics, sustainability, and stakeholder management. Nelson Education.

Rossouw, D., Van Vuuren, L., Ghani, A. H. A., & Adam, M. Z. A. (2010). Business ethics. Oxford University Press Southern Africa.

Shaw, W. H., & Barry, V. (2015). Moral issues in business. Cengage Learning.