Ethical Dilemma (2023)

A problem in the decision-making process between two possible but unacceptable options from an ethical perspective

Updated November 24, 2022

(Video) Ethical dilemma: Would you lie? - Sarah Stroud

(Video) What is an Ethical Dilemma?

What is an Ethical Dilemma?

An ethical dilemma (ethical paradox or moral dilemma) is a problem in the decision-making process between two possible options, neither of which is absolutely acceptable from an ethical perspective. Although we face many ethical and moral problems in our lives, most of them come with relatively straightforward solutions.

Ethical Dilemma (1)

On the other hand, ethical dilemmas are extremely complicated challenges that cannot be easily solved. Therefore, the ability to find the optimal solution in such situations is critical to everyone.

(Video) Ethical dilemma: The burger murders - George Siedel and Christine Ladwig

Every person may encounter an ethical dilemma in almost every aspect of their life, including personal, social, and professional.

How to Solve an Ethical Dilemma?

The biggest challenge of an ethical dilemma is that it does not offer an obvious solution that would comply with ethics al norms. Throughout the history of humanity, people have faced such dilemmas, and philosophers aimed and worked to find solutions to them.

The following approaches to solve an ethical dilemma were deduced:

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  • Refute the paradox (dilemma): The situation must be carefully analyzed. In some cases, the existence of the dilemma can be logically refuted.
  • Value theory approach: Choose the alternative that offers the greater good or the lesser evil.
  • Find alternative solutions: In some cases, the problem can be reconsidered, and new alternative solutions may arise.


Some examples of ethical dilemma include:

  • Taking credit for others’ work
  • Offering a client a worse product for your own profit
  • Utilizing inside knowledge for your own profit

Ethical Dilemmas in Business

Ethical dilemmas are especially significant in professional life, as they frequently occur in the workplace. Some companies and professional organizations (e.g., CFA) adhere to their own codes of conduct and ethical standards. Violation of the standards may lead to disciplinary sanctions.

Almost every aspect of business can become a possible ground for ethical dilemmas. It may include relationships with co-workers, management, clients, and business partners.

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People’s inability to determine the optimal solution to such dilemmas in a professional setting may result in serious consequences for businesses and organizations. The situation may be common in companies that value results the most.

In order to solve ethical problems, companies and organizations should develop strict ethical standards for their employees. Every company must demonstrate its concerns regarding the ethical norms within the organization. In addition, companies may provide ethical training for their employees.

More Resources

CFI now offers the Business Essentials Bundle with courses on Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, business communication, data visualization, and an understanding of corporate strategy. To keep learning, we suggest these resources:

(Video) The ethical dilemma of self-driving cars - Patrick Lin


What is ethical dilemma and examples? ›

Some examples of ethical dilemma include: Taking credit for others' work. Offering a client a worse product for your own profit. Utilizing inside knowledge for your own profit.

What are the 4 ethical dilemmas? ›

In LDRS 111 you were introduced to four different ethical dilemma paradigms: truth vs loyalty, short-term vs long-term, individual vs community, and justice vs mercy.

What would be an ethical dilemma? ›

A moral (ethical) dilemma is a situation that involves a choice, decision, act/action, solution that may include an unpleasant problem or situation where you feel you simply do not know what to do or which way to turn.

What are some real life examples of ethical dilemmas? ›

16 Real-Life Examples of Ethical Dilemmas
  • Should parents monitor teens' social media activities? ...
  • Reporting an accident.
  • Ghosting in the workplace.
  • Medical care versus religious beliefs.
  • Misinterpret data deliberately?
  • Share my political leanings and risk losing clients?
  • Internet dilemmas.
16 Mar 2021

What is an example of a dilemma? ›

a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two different things you could do: The president is clearly in a dilemma about/over how to tackle the crisis. She faces the dilemma of disobeying her father or losing the man she loves.

What are the 5 ethical threats? ›

Many threats fall into the following categories: (a) Self-interest; (b) Self-review; (c) Advocacy; (d) Familiarity; and (e) Intimidation.

What are the three 3 types of ethical issues? ›

The three major types of ethics are deontological, teleological and virtue-based.

What are the three types of dilemmas? ›

Common types of dilemmas include classic, ethical, and moral.

What is ethical dilemma and its causes? ›

Ethical behavior is acting in ways that are consistent with how the business world views moral principles and values. The four major factors that can cause ethical problems in the workplace are lack of integrity, organizational relationship problems, conflicts of interest, and misleading advertising.

What is an ethical example? ›

Examples of ethical behaviors in the workplace includes; obeying the company's rules, effective communication, taking responsibility, accountability, professionalism, trust and mutual respect for your colleagues at work. These examples of ethical behaviors ensures maximum productivity output at work.

What are examples of ethical dilemmas at work? ›

Here are some common examples of ethical dilemmas, and how you could potentially deal with them:
  • Reporting a colleague for inappropriate behavior. Dilemma: You see one of your close colleagues speaking inappropriately to another member of staff. ...
  • Lying to your manager. ...
  • Disagreeing with a company decision.
13 Aug 2018

What are some ethical dilemmas for students? ›

Often, freshmen face the following questions and conflicts that test their conscience and push new boundaries.
  • Do I have to conform? ...
  • Do I pick a major based on passion or post-graduate salary? ...
  • Do I have to adhere to “hookup culture”? ...
  • How do I live with someone else? ...
  • Do I party?
7 Oct 2014

What is dilemma in simple words? ›

A dilemma is a difficult situation in which you have to choose between two or more alternatives. He was faced with the dilemma of whether or not to return to his country.

What is an example of an ethical dilemma in school? ›

A big ethical dilemma is bullying. Teachers need to be aware that students are not being bullied by other students or teachers such as the case in the Sun Sentinel paper. Two girls were bullying and harassing another girl to the point that the girl committed suicide. One of the girls did not even show remorse.

How do you handle ethical dilemmas? ›

How to Act and React to an Ethical Dilemma
  1. Repeat Back and Clarify. ...
  2. Ask Ethical Questions. ...
  3. Focus on your Manager's Best Interests. ...
  4. Suggest an Alternative Solution. ...
  5. Escalate Situations. ...
  6. Blow the whistle. ...
  7. Leave Unethical Environments, If Necessary.
13 Jan 2022

What are the two types of ethical dilemmas? ›

There are several types of moral dilemmas, but the most common of them are categorized into the following: 1) epistemic and ontological dilemmas, 2) self-imposed and world-imposed dilemmas, 3) obligation dilemmas and prohibition dilemmas, and 4) single agent and multi-person dilemmas.

What are the 7 key ethical principles? ›

WHAT ARE THE 7 MAIN ETHICAL PRINCIPLES IN NURSING AND WHY THEY ARE IMPORTANT? There are seven primary ethical principles of nursing: accountability, justice, nonmaleficence, autonomy, beneficence, fidelity, and veracity.

What are the 6 ethical issues? ›

These principles include voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, potential for harm, and results communication.

How do you identify a dilemma? ›

There is a conflict between values or principles. The dilemma is that you would be doing something right and wrong at the same time, and by taking one right course you will negate the other right course.

What are the principles of dilemma? ›

STANDARD APPROACHES TO A MORAL DILEMMA. Principles provide basic statements about desirable values. In principlism, autonomy, beneficence, the avoidance of harm, and justice are featured because they involve nearly universally accepted values. In application, principles may conflict and so one or more may be violated.

Why is ethical dilemma important? ›

The practice not only fosters better ethical decision-making, but it may also have a positive effect on academic performance, says Flanagan. Exercises that require assessments of ethical dilemmas can improve reasoning and critical thinking skills—valuable assets in many academic contexts.

What are the effects of ethical dilemma? ›

The impacts of these dilemmas were identified as disappointment, confusion, anxiety, discomfort, and distress.

What is ethics simple answer? ›

Ethics examines the rational justification for our moral judgments; it studies what is morally right or wrong, just or unjust. In a broader sense, ethics reflects on human beings and their interaction with nature and with other humans, on freedom, on responsibility and on justice.

What are 4 ethical behaviors? ›

Ethical behavior includes honesty, fairness, integrity and understanding. There are several ways to encourage an ethical workplace culture, including establishing a company-wide code of ethics.

What is an example of a good ethical decision? ›

For example, we might say it is ethically obligatory for parents to care for their children, not only because it is right for them to do it, but also because it is wrong for them not to do it. The children would suffer and die if parents did not care for them.

What are three examples of ethical? ›

Examples of ethical behaviors in the workplace includes; obeying the company's rules, effective communication, taking responsibility, accountability, professionalism, trust and mutual respect for your colleagues at work. These examples of ethical behaviors ensures maximum productivity output at work.

What is an example of an ethical dilemma in business? ›

False accounting, sexual harassment, data privacy, nepotism, discrimination—these are just some of the ethical dilemmas that happen in today's workplace. Many business owners and managers will deal with ethical issues at some point in their career.

What are the 5 ethical issues? ›

Ethical Issues in Business
  • Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace. ...
  • Health and Safety in the Workplace. ...
  • Whistleblowing or Social Media Rants. ...
  • Ethics in Accounting Practices. ...
  • Nondisclosure and Corporate Espionage. ...
  • Technology and Privacy Practices.
19 Feb 2020

What are the 7 types of ethics? ›

Types of ethics
  • Supernaturalism.
  • Subjectivism.
  • Consequentialism.
  • Intuitionism.
  • Emotivism.
  • Duty-based ethics.
  • Virtue ethics.
  • Situation ethics.

What are the 7 principles of ethics? ›

The principles are beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, justice; truth-telling and promise-keeping.

What are the 7 code of ethics? ›

7 Ethical Principles

Fairness of commercial practices. Data confidentiality. Professional behavior. Professional skills and added value.

What causes a dilemma? ›

Ethical dilemmas arise when a difficult problem cannot be solved in a way that will satisfy everyone who is involved. The same dilemma might occur when a situation arises that involves a choice between equally unsatisfactory alternatives.

What is the difference between a problem and a dilemma? ›

A dilemma is a difficult choice between unattractive alternatives. A problem is a situation that must be resolved somehow.


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