Ethical Decision-Making Model

Ethical Decision-Making Model

Ethics at the workplace refers to that set of values, moral principles, or standards of behavior that ensure proper and appropriate conduct. More often than not, the responsibility to uphold the highest levels of ethical conduct is placed upon the leaders in organizations. From time to time, they face ethical dilemmas in this capacity. As ethics implies the fundamental sense of societal wrong and right, the leaders have to make a decision and do the right thing, even though the ‘wrong’ thing may also have considerable attraction. The author of this paper posits that when faced with such a dilemma, an optimal decision can be reached if the ethical decision-making model is applied.

On October 3, 2013, Jonathan Bullington reported in the Chicago Tribune, a case where Des Plaines Police Department was embroiled in a lawsuit in which a female community service officer said she was subjected to gender discrimination and sexual harassment by the current and former departmental heads. The case involved many defendants, among them a manager. In the lawsuit, she claimed a hostile working environment was created and perpetuated by the defendants who ignored the sexual harassment and complaints (Bullington, 2013). They were accused of condoning retaliations too.

The manager’s case can be singled out, and his case examined. However, the examination shall focus on the ethical aspect, as opposed to the legal aspect. What might have happened? Was he faced with any moral dilemma? What should he have done? It is noted that most employees at the firm were males. It was not surprising when the posting of the new female employee in that predominantly male environment stirred conflict because the firm had not conducted any sensitivity training. Some male employees were making inappropriate and sensitive remarks to the new employee, who complained to the manager about it. In response, the manager sanctioned them for that irresponsible behavior. He also wondered if moving the female employee to a different position where she would draw less attention would be wise. What if he chose to treat her differently, maybe in a special way?

Applying the ethical decision-making model would enable him make the best decision. Firstly, the problem had been identified and defined. This was the very attention the female employee was drawing, coupled with the unethical reaction by some of the male employees. This was a pretty delicate issue that needed to be dealt with immediately, but what options did he have? This is the second step in the model: to identify alternatives. He could choose to ignore the matter and give it time to fade. Alternatively, he could move the female employee to a different position where she would supposedly attract little attention. He could also choose to just treat her in a more special way, given her gender and the harassment to which she was being subjected.

With these options on the table, evaluation of each is required, according to the third step of the model. This involves exploring the implications of each alternative. He could choose to ignore, but what if it did not stop, and instead went on and on or even got worse? In such a case would that be the best option? What would happen if he moved her to another position or department? Will her input to the firm still remain the same? What if the problem recurred in her new work station? If he followed the path of treating her in a special way due to her gender and harassment, would that not be perceived as unethical and discriminatory conduct? Were there any legal issues and implications with any of these alternatives?

Evaluating these alternatives through some of these questions leads to the next step: to make a decision. After deciding what to do, the manager would move to the implementation stage (step 5) where he would act as decided. After some time, he would then evaluate the decision. This would involve observing to see if the desired effect and changes are achieved. If it happens that the answer is in the affirmative, he should know he made the best decision. Otherwise, it would be advisable to go back to the drawing board.


Bullington, J. (2013,October 3). Des Plaines police officer sues department alleges sexual harassment, bias. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from