ETHICAL DILEMMA IN ORGANIZATIONAL DECISION-MAKING 1
PersonalEthical Dilemma in Organizational Decision-making
The paper focuseson an ethical dilemma between two friends, Dan and Mike. Mike findsDan using the organization`s resources against the hospital`s rulesand regulations. In this case, the ethical dilemma is to discusswhether Mike should report his friend Dan to the management or remainsilent and ignore it. The paper applies Utilitarianism theory to putthis ethical dilemma into context. Findings from the theory show thatthere is no right or wrong thing when it comes to making a decisioninvolving such a case. The paper dissects the whole scenario puttingeverything into perspective for a better judgment. Possiblealternatives are presented, including its advantages anddisadvantages. From these advantages and disadvantages, consequencesare discussed for every decision made by the two parties. The paperconcludes by stating that an ethical dilemma remains a moral dilemma,and will depend on the decision made.
An ethicaldilemma refers to a complex situation, which often involves a mentalconflict against a moral imperative, whereby in obeying one leads totransgressing the other. Sometimes in moral philosophy referred to asan ethical paradox. An ethical dilemma is often invoked or elicitedin an attempt to go against a moral code or ethical system, or toresolve a paradox (Bredeson & Goree, 2011). In any workplace,many ethical systems or legal codes are involved. Workers oremployees are bound by these moral codes for any organization tofunction properly (Westerholm et al. 2004). However, there are othertimes where lines are crossed or violated due to a number of reasons.During such times, beliefs, principles or relationships come intoplay when certain decisions have to be made.
Such a scenariois called an ethical dilemma – a situation whereby employees in anorganization are forced to make a particular decision about theiractions after weighing it as either right or wrong. A study of thedecision-making process and ethical behavior involving ethical issuesin health care and nursing remains the most significant aspects ofhealth care education. One will likely be confronted almost on adaily basis to make sound decisions. Therefore, the paper will focuson an ethical dilemma in Beechwood Private Hospital located inOntario, Canada. After describing the difficulty, the paper willconsider the moral agents and stakeholders involved, and the harmcaused. Additionally, the paper will discuss alternative solutions,advantages, and disadvantages of these solutions, and the possibleconsequences for having made those decisions.
Dan (not his real name) found Mike (not his real name) his co-workergiving himself an insulin injection in the injection room. Mikedefended his actions stating that he had started feeling hypoglycemicbecause of his diabetic condition. He claims that because it was anemergency, and he did not want to use his insulin from home, it wasconvenient to get it for free at his workplace.
He begs Dan, his co-worker, and friend, not to report him or sayanything about it to anyone. He also promises that it was only aone-time situation and that he would never repeat it again. Miketrusted him and opted not to report him or say anything about thewhole scenario. A month later, Dan walked on Mike again. He (Dan)watches him applying the blood-glucose monitor to taste hisblood-sugar level, which is equipment only used for patients. Inanother scenario, Dan sees him stealing a pair of insulin syringes,drawing up insulin sample from the refrigerator in the storage room,and hiding the pair in his pocket without ascertaining the dosageamount for use with another nurse. Moments later, Dan watches himdisappear into a bathroom. Dan remembers the past incident, a monthago and decides to go into the bathroom minutes later after he comesout. Dan finds an empty insulin syringe thrown into the trash can.
Roleof Mike (LVN)
Mike is hiredas a Licensed Vocational Nurse at the organization. What does he dowhen confronted with such a scenario as a responsible employee and asa friend? Being a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), Mike would beconsidered the only person involved or responsible in decision-makingas to whether or not such actions from his co-workers should bereported. Again, he is the only one to have witnessed the wholesituation from his colleague and friend. It is evident that employeetheft impact on the company negatively. Being a private institution,a facility like Beechwood Private Hospital registering less profitwill mean that there will increase in wages and salaries. Therefore,Cornelius (2002) cautions that fraud committed by an employee willdirectly affect other employee`s income or compensation.
The following are some ways to prevent workplace theft andinconsiderate use of resources. First, one should hire a specialista well-thought out background due diligence is the employer`s tool touse when hiring potential employees. Secondly, procurement departmentshould be involved to control the inventory, which, according toHarman (2006), is another good way to stop workplace theft ormisappropriation of resources. The management should also be involvedin educating the organization`s employees on how misappropriation,misuse, or theft of resources affects the company, while encouragingemployee assistance. The management team should outline clearprocedures to report such cases, ensure a high level ofconfidentiality, and lay out clear consequences of mistrust anddishonesty from the employees. Again, the parties involved shouldmake sure that employees are presented with a better understanding ofthe organization`s resource misappropriation and theft policy.
The followingare possible steps that are more formal in handling such cases afterit occurs. First, there is need to counsel with the management teamand reinforce levels of confidentiality. Secondly, all the partiesinvolved in the situation should be identified. Thirdly, obtainstatements regarding the situation from both employees (Dan and Mike)without having to notify other employees. This way, other staff willnot be able to gather and try to spread malice. Finally, the involvedparties should be brought together in private, and ask them tonarrate what they know about the issue. If their narrations do notmatch, the only resolution would be termination.
From theethical dilemma above, there are some possible ways to resolve thewhole situation of misappropriation of organization`s resources andtheft. Mike can inform the nurse in charge immediately about hisco-worker`s actions and let the nurse take charge of the situation.Secondly, Mike could confront Dan, his colleague, and friend, for thesecond time, and inform him about his wayward actions and the need tostop. Again, Mike should tell him that if he does not go ahead andreport his activities to the nurse in charge or the management, he(Mike), will do it because by failing to do so, may result in her jobposition and his license terminated.
Another optionfor Mike would be to ignore the whole situation because Dan has beena good friend to him and would not want to report him. He would optto ignore and hope that he (Dan) would resolve the mistakes on hisown without having him (Mike) getting involved. Finally, Mike couldchoose to draft an anonymous letter to the people in charge,informing them about his friend`s deeds hoping that they would takethe necessary actions.
Advantagesand Disadvantages of Possible Alternatives
Advantages: First, the advantage of Mike reporting thesituation to the supervisor in charge or the management is that hecan stay away from risking his job or nursing license. The reason forsuch a move is that Mike will be able to defend himself in thefuture. For instance, if he stays silent without reporting thematter, another person would find out in the future for havingconspired to cover up such actions of dishonesty and mistrust. Thiswould result in the management losing trust in him therefore, itwill be advantageous for Mike to report the situation first hand.
Secondly, byMike confronting Dan will be advantageous for both of them to be trueto themselves. Mike will come out open to his friend and co-worker,and on the other hand, Dan will appreciate his friend`s honesty.Either way, Dan will choose the best way to handle the situation orMike will have come clean without having to jeopardize theirfriendship. Thirdly, by Mike ignoring the whole scenario would beadvantageous for both of them as far as their friendship isconcerned. This is because the two have been good friends for a whilenow, and it would be important for Mike to ignore the whole scenarioand hope that Dan would stop his actions.
Disadvantageous: One disadvantage comes from Mikereporting his friend`s deeds to the management. Here, it will be arisky affair for Mike remains silent about it may end up losing hisjob for covering up such a serious issue. Secondly, Mike will appeara snitch for confronting his co-worker and friend – Dan –concerning his actions. Friends are supposed to support their friendsin every situation, whether dire or otherwise and Mike confrontingis a friend will not only bring about the end of their friendship butalso mistrust between the two. According to Bredeson & Goree(2011), it is important that co-workers maintain the level offriendship that would impact on the organization positively. Thirdly,by ignoring what transpired puts his friend`s integrity and honestyat risk. Again, Mike would jeopardize his situation, and it would bedisadvantageous if both or one of them loses his job and license.
If Mike informs the nurse in charge about his friend`s deeds, one ofthe primary short-term results would be that the nurse in chargewould immediately report to her supervisor or anyone else involved inthe situation. The director, for instance, would meet with Mike`sco-worker and engage with him to ascertain the allegations framedagainst him. The supervisor or the management would give him a verbalor written warning against his actions.
Another short-term consequence might result in him being served witha suspension letter for a period while the supervisor together withthe management engages on the possible measure to take concerning thesituation. Again, Dan may be fired for bridging or going against theorganization`s rules and regulations. A long-term consequence wouldbe Dan knowing that his friend, Mike, was the one who reported him tothe management, and Mike would end up losing a close friend over theissue. Here, the consequence would mean Dan is losing her jobcomplete due to misappropriation and theft of the resources,dishonest, and untrustworthy.
For instance,If Mike confronts his co-worker about what he had witnessed one ofthe short-term consequences would result in Dan getting angry withhis friend and term him as being nosy. Dan would also caution him(Mike) to mind his own business. Dan would deny having made themistake and attempt to talk Mike away the same manner he had done thelast time, or he (Dan) could totally refuse to speak about the wholeissue with his friend. A long-term consequence means Dan is ignoringany advice or help given to him and opts not to report his deeds tothe management. Dan may continue making the situation worse, whichmeans his friend, may have no choice, but report him. Again, anotherco-worker would bump into him thus putting his job and nursinglicense at risk. Mike confronting her would mean ruining theirfriendship.
Opting to letgo of the whole situation then pretend to have never happened makesit is for Mike to be termed as dishonest. The short-term consequencewould result in the situation becoming habit – using theorganization`s resources without permission can lead to the casebecoming a more dangerous practice. Again, another patient might misshis or her dose of insulin because of misuse, and would end up fatal.Mike might also be put in a tight scenario if another person knew hewas aware of the issue and fails to report. He may end up losing herjob and license because of someone else.
Such an ethicaldilemma would require the best solution to solve the issue. A morefavorable one would be Mike, Dan`s co-worker, to confront his friendin a more non-judgmental way and try to explain to him some of theconsequences of his actions. Mike should inform his colleague that ifhe reports his deed to the management, the effects may not be adverseand that he may not lose his job for being honest and truthful.
This is the best solution because it allows Dan to be open with hisfriend and offer him the option of being responsible and transparentin resolving the whole situation he is into without having to placehis friend`s job and nursing license at risk. According to Westerholmet al. (2004), based on the ethical principle for such a situation,the issue would be veracity since as an employee of any company or anorganization, one has an obligation or mandate to be open and tellthe truth. Westerholm et al. (2004) noted that another ethicalprinciple to apply is autonomy through the confrontation of theworker, in this case, Mike`s co-worker, in ensuring he makes hisdecision to solve the situation he is in.
In such an ethical dilemma, when one is confronted with the need tomake a sound decision regarding the same, what one chooses to doabout it may appear difficult to make or not. In most cases involvingethics, there is no wrong or right answer, and the best way to goabout it depends on the situation at hand (Bredeson & Goree,2011). According to Sharma & Bhal (2004), to assist one evaluatewhat action, if any, to take, there are general steps or guidelinesto handle such ethical dilemmas that can provide the right frameworkfor any decision-making process.
Applicationof Utilitarianism Theory to Assess and Analyze if the Decision isEthical-Based
According toUtilitarianism, this theory emphasizes that any decision isconsidered as ethical is it brings pleasure or goodness to a largernumber of people (Teel, 2001). The utilitarian simplifies thecomplexities of the moral law into an easy quantitative calculation(Sharma & Bhal, 2004). It is referred to as the cost-benefitanalysis and that it can be applied to ascertain or decide whetherany choice made is ethical (Schermerhorn, 2010). For instance, onehas to put into consideration the level of pleasure one acquiresthrough their decisions while eliminating the total amount of painfrom the decision made. The result will provide the overall utilityof the decision made.
Formula: TotalPleasure – Total Pain = Total Utility (Paludi, 2012)
Here, thehighest result that is complete service is regarded to be the rightaction irrespective of whose pleasure or happiness is involved(Harman, 2006). On the other hand, Utilitarianism justifieshappiness, or satisfaction is above what is right or just.
By usingcost-benefit analysis formula on Utilitarianism, the ethical dilemmain question will be analyzed to determine whether the situation ismoral (Cornelius, 2002). Having been mentioned earlier, Mike shouldinform his co-worker that if he reports his deed to the management,the consequences may not be adverse and that he may not lose his jobfor being honest and truthful. Based on the Utilitarianism formula,Dan will have to analyze the pleasure first from his action. Byfacing the management of the Hospital and being forced, to be honest,and tell the truth, he will likely keep his job and nursing license.This is because he will not be going against any rule or regulationin place. Besides that, Dan will be a better position to save hisfriendship with Mike without having to confront him.
Secondly, Danwill have to analyze and assess the total pain from his action.However, the only disadvantage is that Dan will be upset when toconfront by his co-worker since he will need to face the managementto open up about his actions. Therefore, if Dan subtracts the totalpain from complete happiness or work, not only will he be able tokeep his job and nursing license, but also be able to maintain hisfriendship with Mike, thus increased production in the workplace.
As a result,Dan will continue working and support his family. Here, totalpleasure from Dan`s actions will by far outweighs the total pain ofhaving to face the organization`s management. In such a case, it isevident that total utility is higher. According to Bredeson &Goree (2011), deriving from the theory of Utilitarianism, Mike`sresolution or action is considered as the most ethical or right thingto do when confronted with such a situation. Applying the samecost-benefit analysis formula, one would quickly come up with utilitylow-levels from the first two options. The possibility of Dan losingher job and nursing license for being dishonest and inconsiderate mayresult in Mike, his co-worker, and friend, risk losing his job infuture. In the long run, this will cause more pain to more people.Therefore, the other options are considered as unethical based on themoral law of Utilitarianism.
In the case of ethical dilemma described in the paper, it is evidentthat Utilitarianism theory proves to be the best way for Mike toconfront his co-worker Dan and urge him to be open and tell thetruth. However, it is important to note that there is the fast orhard rule when it comes to making a decision whether an action isconsidered ethical or not. A lot of aspects have to be put intoconsideration. For instance, the Kantians would disagree thatparticular measures taken to solve Dan`s dilemma are right. All thesame, and in both cases (Dan`s and Mike`s), the Utilitarian theoryemphasizes that personal relationships should not be taken intoconsideration when deciding any resolution or answers to any conflictor situation.
Nevertheless, more often than not, it is not practical in the realscenario. These theories are often used as a form of procedure orguideline. In the end, it is up to the individuals involved to decidewhatever they need or want to do when confronted with an ethicaldilemma, especially in the workplace. In the end, one is required tomake a sound decision when faced with any moral dilemma. Whatever onechooses to do in such situations, it may or may not be the right ordifficult decision to make. Again, ethical dilemmas do not require adecision to be right, but that which is favorable than the rest.
Bredeson, D., &Goree, K. (2011). Ethics in the Workplace. Stamford: CengageLearning.
Cornelius, N. (2002). Building Workplace Equality: Ethics,Diversity and Inclusion. Hampshire: Cengage Learning EMEA.
Harman, L. B. (2006). Ethical Challenges in the Management ofHealth Information. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Paludi, M. A. (2012). Managing Diversity in Today’s Workplace:Strategies for Employees and Employers. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Schermerhorn, J. R. (2010). Management. Hoboken: John Wiley &Sons.
Sharma, P., & Bhal, K. T. (2004). Managerial Ethics: DilemmasAnd Decision Making. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Teel, K.R. (2001). Investigating Workplace Theft: SherlockHolmes Meets
Miss Manners. Retrieved November 20, 2003, from
Westerholm, P., Nilstun, T., & Øvretveit, J. (2004). PracticalEthics in Occupational Health. Abingdon: Radcliffe Publishing.