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Professional Dilemma and Values Conflict

When we are all falling ethically.

When we are all falling ethically.

What to do?

People fight with ethical dilemmas every day some at home and some at work. Facing ethical dilemmas at work can have a negative outcome on one’s career advancement or career in general. Understanding ethics can mean understanding one’s own ethics and others ethical positions. This means people do not always share the same ethical reasoning. Guidelines and rules at work can assist when an employee is unsure of what is ethical inside the organizational walls of the company. Some people value their jobs more than others, some people value ethics more than their jobs. At some point in a career everybody will face an ethical dilemma. To help with ethical dilemmas, this paper the subject to describe is an experience with ethics, analyze the ethical dilemma, and evaluate the outcome of the ethical dilemma.

The Ethical Experience

This experience with an ethical dilemma is between doing what is right according to the organizational rules or what an employee believes is right for the organization. When companies or organizations begin to have financial difficulties employees take on a greater sense of responsibility for their organization. Employees believe that the organization is doing something wrong and falsely try to correct the problems as they see fit. Employees may cut corners to try to save money even though these employees are breaking safety rules or even worse zero tolerance rules within the company. An example of a rule in this particular organization dealing with mail delivery occurs when the employee is operating a motor vehicle, according to The United States Postal Service (2008), “does not hold or finger mail while vehicle is moving” (Curbside Delivery: Task 5, para. 3). Fingering the mail is a term the United States Postal Service uses to describe, going through and looking at the mail. As customers see, mail carriers are most often alone delivering the mail, which means if carriers are breaking the rules chances are the supervisors are not seeing this happen. Fingering the mail while driving is dangerous for any vehicle operator to do; it means the driver is not paying attention to the vehicle in operation, other vehicles on the road, or the road. Pressure is a means of motivating letter carriers to hurry on the route and to be back in a shorter amount of time. Many letter carriers’, especially new carriers succumb to this pressure from supervisors to prove their worth and to avoid confrontation with supervisors for returning late from the route.

Analyzing the Dilemma

The ethical dilemma is a dilemma of whether to follow the written rules or to succumb to the pressures of the verbal instructions of the supervisors. The supervisors are not with the carriers so they do not see the effort of the daily deliveries, this makes proving following or not following the rules difficult. This leaves employees with a sense that being caught and punishment for breaking the rules is not as likely. In the same respect supervisors not trusting the letter carriers when they are following the rules and working hard is discouraging for employees. According to Paul and Elder (2006), “the mind has three functions—thinking, feeling, and desire” (p. 405). Employees “think” they should follow the rules of the organization and the supervisors, they “feel” unacknowledged by supervisors for their efforts, and break the written rules because they “want” appreciation. Supervisors are the directors of efforts and have an authority over their employees. Oh course this is irrational thinking because a supervisor can deny any statements made verbally or misunderstanding between the employee and supervisor would place fault for any wrongdoing on the employee. The employee would lose their job and self-respect. The written rules are accessible and a visual source for information if a misunderstanding is occurring.

Evaluating the Outcomes

To evaluate the outcome of the situation one should see both possible outcomes. In most ethical dilemmas outcomes are the consequences of the actions taken by the individual. “Consequences are the beneficial or harmful effects that result from an action and affect the people involved, including, of course, the person performing the action” (Ruggiero, 2008, p. 81). The first outcome comes from the employee who follows the written rules. Following the written rules an employee may only be in a battle of wits with the supervisor or subject to negative reactions from not making a deadline, these are temporary consequences. Over time these consequences can wear on individuals but give an individual time to think about what to do or for the problem to solve itself. The second possible outcome is to break the written rules and follow the desire to earn the superficial praise of the supervisor. The consequences for this action can be detrimental to one’s professional life and personal life. The consequences would not be as temporary as the others because it is difficult to regain the trust of other professionals and to regain employment if necessary. Rational thought would lead one to follow the written rules and to hope for the best outcomes. Employees would have some support from people in the organization because the rules what they are, no misunderstanding can be to blame.

What makes ethical dilemmas difficult are that ethics may change over time, what was unethical in the past may be ethical in the present or the future. In personal lives of the past drinking alcohol was unethical as the laws change and continue to change, the result is that drinking alcohol is currently ethical, in specific instances. This concept of changing ethics also applies to different cultures, religions, and organizations. One can see that ethical dilemmas require critical thinking in the decision-making process. “Given the detrimental consequences of unsound ethical decisions, understanding how leaders make ethical decisions and the factors that influence ethical decision making and ethical decisions become critical” (Selart & Johansen, 2011, p. 129-130). As shown in this paper much thought and consideration is part of ethical dilemmas, as well when experiencing ethical dilemmas, analyzing an ethical dilemma, and evaluating the outcome of the ethical dilemma, known as the consequences.


Paul, R. W., &Elder, L. (2006). Critical thinking: Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

Ruggiero, V. R. (2008). Thinking critically about ethical issues (7th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

Selart, M., & Johansen, S. (2011). Ethical Decision Making in Organizations: The Role of Leadership Stress. Journal of Business Ethics, 99(2), 129-143. doi:10.1007/s10551-010-0649-0

The United States Postal Service. (2008). Safe Driver Program Handbook EL-804. Retrieved from

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