It is a paradox, problem or an issue that is confronted by an organisation, group or individual while making choice between conflicting claims, neither of which is clearly preferable or acceptable.
It is a moral situation where the individual has to choose between two situations that are morally undesirable.
As it is also a paradox, the choices to be made between two unethical situations is known as an ethical dilemma.
According to Harrison, "An ethical dilemma is a complex situation a person (business) faces in which a decision must be made about the adequate action to be taken".
According to PF Drucker, "Ethics deal with the right action of the individuals.
Causes of Ethical Dilemma:
Correction by management: The management may pressurise the group or the individual to act in a certain way. Often the companies are focused on generating profits and results. Hence, the individual may feel forced to act unethically.
Discrimination or Ambition: The individual may become ambitious and follow the unethical path in order to receive recognition from the management. The individual may also be financially pressed to follow such unjust steps.
Negotiations: The worker may be pressurised to buy a good deal. Hence, he may lie or mislead the other party in order to seal the deal. He may try to bribe the negotiator in order to get the deal. Hence, such pressure may lead to unethical behaviour.
Unclear Policies: The policies of the organisation are silent about the conduct or behaviour expected from the employee while performing specific duties. The policies are inconsistent and vague with regard to moral conduct.
Unethical Culture: The organisation in itself practices unethical culture. Organisational culture is determined by the practice of the top-level managers, integrity of the HR managers etc. If the top-level managers are immoral, then the lower-level employee is no longer remains motivated, to be honest.
Money: Business organisations exist simply for making money. Hence, it is the driving force. However, due to the competitive environment, the organisation, the individuals or groups may follow unethical practices to earn money easily and through short-cut. This promotes ethical dilemma.
Levels of Ethical Dilemma:
They can arise at various levels
Individual: This occurs at the personal level due to religion, culture, attitudes and experiences. This is micro-level.
Organisational: this occurs at the company level because of the procedures and policies of the company. This is meso-level.
Societal: This is also called the environmental level, where the environment of the individual, his friends and family, along with country-specific factors affect the ethical decision taken by the individual.