Reduce Ethical Dilemmas in Your Organization

Every day we make thousands of decisions. While most of us make ethical decisions, a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on Creating an Ethical Workplace shows that business decisions are not always black and white, and not all decisions are right or wrong.

In many cases, there are five factors that lead to unethical decision making:

  1. Pressure to live up to commitments, financial forecasts, or expectations.
  2. Pride which results from the drive to compete at high levels or not wanting to feel uncomfortable.
  3. Pleasure derived from getting something for oneself or giving in to temptation.
  4. Power-driven executives who lose sight of reality.
  5. Priorities that do not align with those of the organization whether it’s because of miscommunication or ignorance.

While these things can lead to poor decision making and even ethical misconduct in the workplace, fortunately, there are steps we can take to reduce the chances of this happening. 


According to the 2016 Global Business Ethics SurveyTM (GBESTM) which is conducted by the Ethics & Compliance InitiativeTM (ECITM), 33% of professionals surveyed in 13 countries observed some form of ethical misconduct. If you think this number is too high, you should also know that while 59% of those who witnessed some sort of wrongdoing reported it; unfortunately 36% of them experienced some form of retaliation.

Obviously, these numbers should be lower, but as a growing number of management teams are being asked to do more with less, training programs without evaluation methods or low ROI can be among the first to get cut says the Association for Talent Development. “ROI is more than a metric; it is a mindset. Extending program performance indicators…shifts the focus of the program from training delivery to organizational impact.”

All too often, administrators believe they only hire ethical people; therefore, training is not needed. What these managers don’t realize is that misconduct happens more often than we all think, and even some of the finest and most upstanding employees can crack when they feel pressured. In fact, The National Business Ethics Survey of the U.S. Workforce says 60% of the time, workplace misconduct involved someone with “managerial authority.” The bottom line is if organizations offered the proper training with trackable evaluation methods, they could actually decrease the number of situations where anyone on their team felt compelled to engage in this type of misconduct.


Feeling the need to “compromise organizational standards is a leading indicator of a larger potential threat: the presence of actual wrongdoing,” says the ECI. Almost 75% of employees in both the public and private sectors who felt some level of pressure also witnessed misconduct, whereas on the other end of the spectrum, only 17% of those who did not report feeling pressure also witnessed some type of misconduct in their work environment.

The takeaway here is that the greater the presence of pressure in the workplace, the higher the chances are that someone is engaging in unethical business practices, whether that be lying, bribery, corruption, and/or retaliation. While this is not the same as saying pressure causes misconduct, it does seem that the two are tightly aligned. This also suggests that there are a few simple solutions for increasing integrity in our workplaces and these include:

  • Having a set of written standards for ethical workplace conduct
  • Providing the proper training on these standards
  • Sharing resources that provide advice on ethics issues
  • Allowing employees to report potential violations confidentially
  • Disciplining violators


If your organization is in need of ethics training, let us help. FirstNet Learning offers online courses that use engaging scenario-based training that will help your team navigate a clear path to ethical decision making.

Law Enforcement Officers will face ethical dilemmas and decision making during their careers. We offer special online training on Law Enforcement Ethics and Use of Force: Ethical Considerations. Contact us for more information and to receive pricing options for purchasing online courses in bulk.

Question:  What does your organization do to decrease ethics violations in your workplace?  Let us know!

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