Prior to entering the working world, I always knew that ethical dilemmas would arise in my career. It was mandatory that we conduct an ethics case in almost every business class in college, and being a Legal Studies major, ethics was naturally a subject in White Collar Crime, Employment Law, and almost every class within the program. What I didn’t realize back then, was just how often I would come in contact with an ethical dilemma in real life and the reality of how hard it would be to navigate around it.
When the unethicality of a situation is so deeply rooted within business and both the domestic and global economy, there’s almost nothing a little guy like me can do by the time the consequences of the dilemma reaches me. I also didn’t realize that making the right choice in an unethical situation could mean losing business, vis-à-vis, losing profit. When it comes down to having to choose between losing profit or giving in to an unethical business decision, I’d put my money on the average corporate worker choosing the option that doesn’t make them lose business. This could, in turn, affects the company profits, get them fired, and keep them from putting food on their family’s table. Instead, it’s easier for them to compromise, make the unethical choice or stay quiet about an unethical choice being made because making the right decision or speaking up against the wrong one is above their pay grade and jeopardizes their livelihood. Kenneth Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale, authors of “The Power of Ethical Management,” suggest that “it is easy to charge ahead and then rationalize your behavior after the event. But, the fact of the matter is, THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO DO A WRONG THING.”
If you’re more new to the working world, here are 4 things to come to terms with before losing your head: The corporate world is both ethical and unethical, ethical leaders do exist, unethical does not always mean illegal, and if we want to see change, all we have to do is make the next right decision until we’re the ones in charge.
We need to recognize that unethical decisions are made all the time and that people, including ourselves, keep quiet about unethicality often. But, c’mon, you’re telling me that after years of growing up being a conspiracy theorist and wanting to “take down the man,” you’re gonna keep quiet now that you’re in a position to speak up???
“But, Marleigh, how do we make the next right choice?!”
I’m so glad you asked.
Take it back to what you learned about ethics and use the ethical dilemma tests. However, this isn’t just for the millennials (you too, Boomer!). If you remember what you were taught about ethics, there’s no greater time to tap into it! If you don’t remember, or you need a refresher, here are a few of my favorite ethical dilemma tests to help you do the next right thing: