Handling ethical dilemmas is not an easy process. People need standards to follow in order to make good choices and that’s why it’s imperative that we carefully consider and understand our own values, the circumstances and manner in which we make decisions in the legal and ethical rules and policies that are organizations follow.

Build strong moral values

The starting point for ethical decision-making is our moral values that is our fundamental beliefs concerning what is good or bad, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable.

Our moral values are molded to a great extent by religious beliefs and training and the influence of our families and environment and especially during our developmental years.

While moral values can vary greatly people share a lot of common ground in this area and they are critically important because they become the basis of our personal ethics which are standards or codes of conduct that guide our decision-making and behavior.

Hone your personal beliefs

Our ethics represent our personal beliefs about whether an action or decision is right or wrong, so your personal ethics might include such things as your stance on truthfulness in dealing with others, honesty and lying, adhering to a code of conduct, the use of confidential information and whether it’s okay to use alcohol or drugs among many other things.

Our ethics are critically important is the impact the decision-making and cognitive processes that govern the choices we make in both our personal and professional lives and the decisions we make strongly influence our behavior and our action.

So, ask yourself, what are your own values? What you believe is right in the right way to live and behave towards other people? What you need to do is to get clear on your beliefs and create a moral awareness in yourself when approaching any decision-making situation.

Spot ethical issues and act ethically

The goal is to develop the ability to spot any ethical issues that might be present.  When ethical issues are at play the first thing you need to do is stop and think then garner relevant information and facts so that you’re working hard to fully understand both the situation and context of that decision to be made.

Make a list for yourself of the options that are open to you in your decision. Is there really no alternative other than a questionable choice? Have you considered every possible course of action?  You need to clearly identify the legal and ethical implications of each course of action in your decision-making alternatives. This requires that you consider all the stakeholders that are impacted by each alternative and the consequences of those different options.

You also need to make sure that you will consider the law of unintended consequences in your deliberation. What if your decision doesn’t turn out as planned? It’s really important to ask the following questions when making decisions:

  • Is this decision legal?
  • Is this decision in line with my organizations values?
  • Is this decision in line with my own values?
  • How will this decision impact the stakeholders?
  • What is the upside of this decision?
  • What is the downside of this decision?

Bear in mind that the answer to an ethical dilemma might already have been made for you. If you look at your organization’s code of conduct union contract or policy manual you may well find that some decisions have already been pre-program.

When in doubt, seek counsel

Seek wise counsel from knowledgeable and experienced people whom you trust when making decisions involving ethical issues. There is no substitute for getting a second set of eyes to test your thinking and your approach in making decisions with serious ethical consequences. To make these types of decisions alone and in isolation is to invite trouble.

Also, when making decisions with ethical implications ask yourself what would somebody have to say about this decision when they find out. Does this decision give you a bad feeling in your gut? Pay attention to your instincts and note that there’s nothing magical about these guidelines.

The key here is to simply get you to think before you make an important decision because that simple act can make a world of difference and spare you some major league regrets and griefs later on.

Be vigilant, anyone of us could be caught

Many people mentally check out they say to themselves okay I’ve got I know what to do and “I know that I’ll never fall victim to temptation in a business decision-making situation”, but stop for a moment and think again about how often you see people in the news will be caught behaving unethically and consider how often you hear them say “I don’t know what I was thinking”.

The fact is that thinking your way through an ethical dilemma isn’t always easy and the temptation to cross the line can be surprisingly strong, and the fact remains that any one of us could get caught up in doing wrongful on ethical immoral and even illegal things if we are not vigilant.