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Ethical Dilemma in the Workplace


An ethical dilemma refers to a complex situation characterized by a conflict in principles on which an individual or a community judges a behaviour or an action as right or wrong. When two moral principles that are used for making a decision conflict, a person is faced with the difficulty of either choosing one of the principles on which they can base their judgment. The complexity of the situation rests on the fact by choosing one principle; the person will be transgressing on another equally important principle at the same time. This essay will explore how the process of ethical decision making can be used to handle the case of an employee who is underperforming hence causing undue burden to other workers.

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Description of the Ethical decision-making framework

Burch, n.d, p.160, explains that the Resolved strategy encourages decision-makers to do the following when trying to resolve an ethical dilemma; they need at first to review the details of the case so that it becomes possible to state the main ethical problem or conflict. The next step involves preparing a list of possible solutions to the conflict and stating the most important and probable outcomes of each of the proposed solutions.

In addition to the above, the decision-makers are also required to describe the likely impact of these possible solutions on the lives of individuals involved in the conflict. After this, there is a need by the decision-makers to explain the values upheld and violated by each of the probable solutions. Finally, the decision-makers should critically evaluate the proposed solutions, proceed to make a decision and justify it. It is equally important for decision-makers to know that at times they may need to defend their decision/s against objections.

Case resolution

Based on the Resolved strategy model, the main conflict in the case being evaluated in this paper involves a junior employee who is underperforming and as a result, inconveniences the boss through a heavy workload. Besides this, the employee also comes to work late and this is not pleasing to the employee’s boss. The boss reports that the employee has been absent from work at times when their presence was of great importance. Similarly, the employee has been noted to have developed a casual attitude towards their work. The outcome of all this has been a reduction in performance on the employees part and this is what has created a conflict between the boss and the employee.

Performance issues in an organization can be dealt with as they occur by providing constructive feedback, employee training or coaching, counselling and using the company’s code of conduct or performance standards as a guide to resolving ethical conflict related to poor performance.

According to Carroll, 1996, p.152, all these possible solutions present a challenge in making ethical decisions. Counselling for underperforming employees is thought to be beneficial because it allows the employee to share any personal problems they could be facing. These can be problems at the workplace or those the employee faces with the family back at home. Employee training and coaching on the other hand are important in enhancing the competence of the employee in case the employee faces difficulties in carrying a particular task (Carter&McMahon, 2005, p.131).

Carter and McMahon, 2005, p.131, continue to explain that code of conduct and performance standards do not provide straight answers to ethical dilemmas frequently encountered in organizational settings. According to them, provisions within these documents can be used to remind the employee of their responsibility to the employer and be used as a basis to provide coaching. This in turn can lead to an improvement in the performance of an employee.

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Considering that the employee has occasionally been absent from work and does not take the work seriously, the manager should approach the employee and share the pressing concerns regarding the employee performance.

The manager should also ensure that the employee is put under close supervision and there is progress reviewed to check if there is any improvement or not. If the problems persist, the manager should recommend that the employee undergoes some counselling and continue to work under probation. If no impressive results are forthcoming, the manager should issue the employee a written warning letter and continue following up on the matter. In case the employee does not show any positive change, the manager can consider discharging the employee temporarily or permanently (Grote, 2006, p.124).

Making an ethical decision is not easy. This is because resolving a case like this takes time to review all the relevant provisions contained in the employee’s employment contract, provisions of government legislation regarding employee welfare like the National Labor relation Act, performance standards and ethical code of conduct of the company and make relations that are specific to the case. The last choice of discharging an employee from gainful employment can harm the employee’s life by rendering the employee incapable of providing for their families and themselves.

Reference List

Burch, J. (n.d). No Easy Answers. Analytic teaching, 22( 2):160-161..

Carroll, M. (1996). Workplace counseling: a systematic approach to employee care. London: Sage.

Carter, M. A., & McMahon, F. A. (2005). Improving employee performance through workplace coaching: a practical guide to performance management. London: Kogan publishers.

Grote, R. C. (2006). Discipline without punishment: the proven strategy that turns problem employees into superior performers. New York: AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.

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