12 Examples of Ethical Decisions

Examples of Ethical Decisions in the Workplace | Examples of Ethical Dilemmas

Every day, we face choices — some of which are small and inconsequential, like what to have for lunch. Others are much more significant, like whether to take a new job or end a relationship. And then there are those decisions that can have far-reaching repercussions, like whether to report misconduct at work or remain silent.

What is meant by the ethical decision?

It is a decision we make intending to do what is right, not what is easy or profitable. We may not be able to foresee all the consequences of our decision at that time, but as long as our intentions are right and clear, that is all matters. In other words, we may not be able to predict every outcome of our decision, but we need to look at all factors and consider a broader point of view than just our own.

The long-term consequences of our actions may be unknown and often difficult to foresee. But our intent should always be to do what we believe is right, based on our current knowledge and understanding. It is about making the conscious choice to do the right thing, even when it is difficult.

Making an ethical decision requires objectivity, empathy, and compassion. Above all, it requires courage to stand up for what you believe is right, even when it is not popular or profitable.

Why is ethical decision important?

Making ethical decisions is important because it is the right thing to do. Every day, people face choices that have moral implications. Some of these choices might seem small, but others can be quite consequential.

It is important to make the right decision in these situations, not only because it is morally correct but also because our actions have consequences that can ripple out in many ways we never expected.

When someone makes an unethical decision, it can have negative consequences for many people. For example, a company that decides to cut corners on safety to save money may end up harming its workers or customers.

Unfortunately, not all of us make ethical decisions at work. We make unethical decisions, leading to many problems, including low employee morale, decreased productivity, and even legal action against the company.

So how can you ensure that you make ethical decisions in the workplace? Here are a few examples of ethical decisions:

1. Not divulging company secrets

Divulging company secrets to anyone — a friend or family member — can be a severe breach of trust and lead to disciplinary action, including termination.

While it may be tempting to confide in someone you trust, revealing confidential information could jeopardize your job and the company’s interests.

If a friend or family member approaches you for insider information, it is best to decline to comment or change the subject.

There is no need to lie or be evasive — politely deflect the question and move on. After all, your friends and family members should not be asking for confidential company information in the first place.

2. Refusing to stretch the truth

Many of us try to present ourselves better and make the best impression possible, so we stretch the truth a bit. It is called a spin — which can be tricky to walk because you want to appear competent and likable, but you also do not want to cross boundaries or misrepresent yourself.

There are times when people try to embellish the truth a bit. For example, if you had an ordinary meeting with a client and your boss asked how it went, you might say it was better than expected.

That is a harmless exaggeration that will not hurt anyone and can even make you look good. But, exaggerating the truth can backfire and make you look bad instead of good. Also, it is not ethical to mislead people in this way.

If fudging the truth or stretching the facts becomes a habit, it will catch up with you at some point.

People can usually tell when you are not being truthful, and they will not trust you. Ultimately, it could hurt your reputation and damage your career. So, it is not worth it.

Read also: 26 Examples of Good Decision-Making

3. Deciding between two negative consequences

Knowing the “right” thing to do in a tricky ethical situation at work can be challenging. It is essential to weigh the potential consequences of each action, both good and bad.

You may have to choose between two bad options or doing something terrible and nothing. Every situation is unique, so it is essential to consider all the implications before deciding.

For example, if you know that doing nothing would harm a client, but taking action could also have negative consequences (such as causing harm to another client), then you need to weigh the options and decide which would result in the least amount of damage.

Sometimes there may be a vague solution, and the best you can do is decide using the information you have. In these situations, it is essential to stay mindful of your values and principles and try not to let yourself get swayed by outside pressures.

When you consider the potential consequences of your actions, you can make a more informed ethical decision.

4. Choosing not to bend the rules when it seems necessary

Sometimes it is necessary to bend the rules at work to get the job done. However, staying within the bounds of what is ethical while you are working is vital. After all, you want to maintain a good reputation at work and in your personal life.

If there are specific rules that you feel are preventing you from doing your job effectively, talk to your boss about them. Chances are they will be more than happy to work with you to find a solution that works for everyone.

But always remember there are better solutions than compromising your ethics in the long run.

5. Remaining neutral in a conflict

When team members are engaged in conflict, it can be disruptive and destructive to the workplace. But it will be helpful if you do not take sides.

If you take sides prematurely, you risk creating tension and further animosity between the two employees — or it can only further exasperate the situation and damage relationships within the team.

So, you must remain neutral and impartial to facilitate communication and resolve the conflict or work towards reconciling both parties.

6. Refusing to participate in office gossip

Gossiping can be addictive, and getting sucked into a cycle of talking about others behind their backs is easy. Before you know it, you are spreading rumors and contributing to the spread of negativity in the office.

Before engaging in gossip or spreading rumors, there are a few things to consider. First, assess the potential harm from spreading gossip and rumors. In some cases, innocent people may get hurt if you spread false information about them.

Second, you should consider your actions’ impact on your work environment. Gossiping and spreading rumors can often lead to disharmony and distrust among coworkers.

Finally, it would help if you think about your values and how they align with your decision to abstain from gossiping — it is an ethical decision that can protect the privacy and reputation of your colleagues.

Always remember that you are responsible for what you say, even if you are repeating something you have heard from someone else.

So, think carefully before gossiping — is it worth potentially harming others to satisfy your curiosity or get a few laughs?

If someone bothers you, speak up directly to that person. Addressing the situation head-on is better than contributing to the gossip mill.

7. Choosing not to exploit a customer’s lack of knowledge

When you can take advantage of a customer’s lack of knowledge, ask yourself whether that practice is ethical. In many cases, it is not — after all, customers are entitled to accurate information about the products and services they buy.

There is a fine line between informing customers and exploiting their lack of knowledge. In business, taking advantage of someone who knows less about the product or service than you do is often tempting. However, this exploitation is unethical and can often lead to bad business practices.

So, always be transparent with your customers. Inform them about all the costs and features associated with your product or service so they can make an informed decision.

If you cannot provide what they are looking for, be upfront about that, too — do not try to deceive them into thinking you have something that you do not. Building trust with your customers is key to building a good brand reputation.

Read also: 15 Examples of Commitments

8. Supporting an underperforming employee

There are a lot of considerations that go into making an ethical decision at work. One example might be whether or not to let someone go who is consistently underperforming.

Many people might think it is acceptable to fire someone abruptly without first giving them support, warning, or explanation. However, there may be more ethical options.

A better option might be to give the person a chance to improve by providing clear expectations and timelines and terminating their employment if they fail to meet your expectations.

Do this in a respectful, fair way that considers the person’s circumstances.  It may be a challenging option, but it is likely more ethical than simply firing someone without warning or supporting them in the first place.

9. Giving someone a second chance after a terrible mistake

One typical example of an ethical dilemma in the workplace is whether or not to give someone a second chance after making a terrible mistake.

Giving the person a second chance to make them reflect and learn from their mistakes is necessary. But also, it is more important to do things the right way, even if it means punishing someone for their mistakes.

In that situation, whether or not to give someone, a second chance must be based on two factors:

How likely will the person improve their behavior if given another opportunity, and how likely will the person continue making mistakes if given another chance?

Do what is suitable for your team or the company as a whole. If giving someone a second chance will help the company achieve its goals — it is worth considering. However, suppose a second chance will harm the company or set back its progress.

In that case, you may choose to discipline the person or put measures in place to minimize the risk of messing up again — such as closely monitoring the employee’s behavior and having contingency plans in place should something go wrong.

Ultimately, it is up to the manager to decide whether or not giving someone another chance is worth the risk. But do not forget you want to make a decision that will benefit the company while also upholding your values and ethics.

10. Not giving preferential treatment

Relationships with senior managers should be among many criteria for gaining preferential treatment in the workplace. No one deserves preferential treatment just because they know someone in a position of authority.

Several factors contribute to employee success, such as hard work, dedication, and skill — so special treatment has to depend on those qualities or performance and contribution to the company.

If someone receives preferences because of his relationship with a senior manager, it can create an unfair playing field for other employees.

Second, it can lead to cronyism and nepotism in the workplace, ultimately damaging company morale. And third, it can create a sense of mistrust among employees and strain relationships within the workplace.

If someone achieves great things despite not having a connection to the senior managers, everyone can learn from their example and aspire to achieve similar success.

Also read: 17 Examples of Personal Aspirations

11. Giving direct feedback

Giving criticism or feedback can be tricky, especially when it seems aggressive, but it is vital to be honest, and direct. Your goal is to help the person you are giving feedback to improve, not to make them feel bad.

First, ensure that you are giving feedback for the right reasons. Do not criticize someone out of anger or frustration. What you want to achieve is to improve the situation.

If you are still determining whether your feedback is warranted, take a step back and ask yourself if the issue is worth discussing.

Then, you’ll need to approach the situation with tact. Let the other person know that you have some constructive criticism for them, and ask permission to share your thoughts.

Be aware of your body language and tone of voice, and stay calm and neutral when delivering your feedback.

12. Choosing not to fudge the numbers

Making an ethical decision in the workplace can be difficult, but it is essential to remember that there are always options.

For example, is it worth compromising your integrity if you fudge the numbers to make your department look good? In most cases, the answer is no.

There are many ways to make your department look good without resorting to unethical practices.

For instance, you could work hard and produce great results or develop new and innovative ideas that make your team consistently perform better.


Making ethical decisions in the workplace can be difficult, but it is vital to consider your decisions’ moral implications before making them.

Try to think about the long-term consequences of your decision and see things from multiple perspectives. You will make a decision that feels right for everyone involved.

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