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The moral dilemma in the workplace is your moment of truth. The decision you make when you find out one of your closest co-workers is stealing from the company, for instance, defines the moral ground you'll stand on for the rest of your career. What to do when faced with a problem in a moral gray area is problematic, as reporting it may cause you to lose a friend, but not reporting it may cost you your job.
Get All the Facts First
Whenever faced with a moral dilemma at work, get all the facts first. Many ethical conundrums at work are tainted with office gossip, and if you act too rashly, you may not see the full picture. Find out why someone is engaged in a morally shady activity. There could be more to it than meets the eye. This takes patience and discretion.
Determine if it is Moral or Personal
Take a second to think whether you are confusing moral problems with personal problems. Think about whether you have biases at play clouding your judgment. Some workplace dilemmas take on a more political nature, such as when a co-worker is doing something seemingly wrong in order to get ahead. Mull it over: Is your colleague really trying to get ahead, or are you projecting a schema that makes him seem like the type who would cut corners to get ahead?
Get Some Wisdom
Get some perspective from a third party. Don't talk to someone close to you, but to someone who is trustworthy and has been in the business for a long time. Preferably someone who doesn't work at the same office. They may have an outside perspective that gives you a new look at the situation.
Develop a Policy
If you're a manager, seek to implement a workplace policy that clearly outlines the code of conduct and company philosophy. Approach the moral dilemma from the viewpoint of the company, holding employees accountable for keeping up with the professional standards expected of them. Ensure all employees are given handbooks that contain the policy, and hold meetings regularly to cement the policy in the employees' minds.
Provide Ethics Training
Train employees in various theories about ethics. Provide instruction on how to resolve ethical dilemmas. Use experiential learning techniques, such as role play, incorporating several ethical scenarios that may happen at work. This may help employees face moral dilemmas at work with more certainty and firmness.
Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.
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