Ways to deal with an ethical dilemma at work
This is a really interesting challenge, but it's a subject that's tough to generalize about. I really think I would have to hear the specs of the individual dilemma to propose a considered solution. So, to make this challenge approachable, I've made a list of questions you should ask yourself *before* you act, to help guide your decision-making.
1. Reflect on how important morality and ethics are to you
Do you actually care about "doing the right thing"? If not, and if there are no other, incidental reasons to engage with this ethical dilemma, maybe you don't want to act after all.
NB. I like to think that people think it's important to "do the right thing," but I'm making no assumptions!
2. Think about the implications of acting vs. not acting
If you scenario-plan both cases, maybe one will stick out as obviously better than the other.
3. Think about your role in the dilemma
How, if at all, were you involved in the dilemma? This can help you determine how credible you will be and whether someone else is better placed to act.
4. Take time to reflect on your values
What are the things that are important to you? Are you willing to take action in line with those beliefs, even when it's hard? If you reflect on your values, knowing what to do could become easier.
5. Take time to reflect on your economic well-being
Are you dependent on this job for your (and perhaps other peoples') basic well-being? If so, it's important to prioritize not losing your job (at least until you have an alternative).
6. Consider whether there really is a "right thing to do" in this situation
It can be all too easy to confuse forwarding our worldview with doing what is "right" (especially since these can align). Try to disentangle these concepts, if possible.
7. Consider the unintended consequences of "doing the right thing"
Say you saw a colleague stealing something from the store. If you report the colleague, and the colleague happens to be a friend, your friendship might be at stake. Think about how you'd feel about this as you weigh the pros and cons of acting.
8. Think about what other workplace issues are at play
Let's say you see a colleague swiping some goods off a shelf. The obvious ethical dilemma is stealing, but other workplace issues are involved too: employee management, access to goods, internal security mechanisms. It's important to think about the ethical dilemma in the context of all these issues at once, since they'll be affected by your actions.
9. Consider the relationships you have with your colleagues
Do you trust your colleagues? Is the atmosphere at your workplace toxic, or already rife with suspicion? Are you widely liked or disliked? People tend to link a messenger and a message.
10. If you decide to act, consider how to frame your action
Form ought to empower content, but it can hinder it if you're not careful. Basically, consider what the appropriate channels, tone, vocabulary, and resources would be if you were to act.