Spend long enough in a cooperative organisation and you are bound to land yourself in the sticky situation where you are confronted with an ethical dilemma. The thing about ethical dilemmas is there is hardly ever a right or a wrong solution. The solution usually depends on the perspectives of the people involved making the decisions and they are the ones having to live with those decisions.
Too often people find themselves in these scenarios, without being prepared or having the skills to make ethical decisions. Ethical tools can help to navigate one’s way through these difficult decisions while minimizing harm. Boards and other groups whom are likely to be challenged with an ethical dilemma at some point, would be wise to ensure they have an ethical strategy in their tool box that can be used when the need arises.
Felicity Haynes (University of Queensland) suggests a three-step approach, in the form of reflective questions, for dealing with ethical decision-making dilemmas. Her questions emerge from her work as a moral philosopher:
- What are the consequences, both short and long term for others, and me, and do the benefits of any possible action outweigh the harmful effects?
- Are all the agents in this situation being consistent with their own past actions and beliefs? That is, are they acting according to an ethical principle/ethical principles which they would be willing to apply in any other similar situation? Are they ‘doing to others as they would they should do unto them’?
- Are all the agents in this situation responding to the needs of others as human beings? Do they care about other people in this particular situation as persons with feelings like themselves? Are they attentive to others?
Haynes, F. (1998). The ethical school. Educational Management Series. Routledge March. ISBN: 0415141850.