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Ethics Online (Under the Aegies of Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reforms)
Ethics Online>Managing Ethics

Managing Ethics



What is Ethics? ​ ​ ​ ​
What does being Ethical mean?
What is an Ethical Dilemma?
How do I deal with an Ethical Dilemma?


The word ethics is derived from the Greek word ethos, which means "character," and from the Latin word mores, which means "customs."

Ethics relates to what is good or bad, having to do with moral duty and obligation. In general, it is seen as a set of principles which guides human behaviour. Ethics can also be in the form of guidelines for conduct expected in the workplace. In professional terms, ethics can take the form of a standard of conduct.

However, ethics concerns more than just behaviour. It reflects human moral attitudes, more specifically, rules of behaviour and their justifications.

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Being ethical involves the following:

• Upholding the highest standard of behaviour as set out at the workplace

• Adopting fair and impartial attitudes while dealing with the public

• Abiding to your professional and organisational Code of Ethics

• Not indulging into any corrupt act or malpractice

• Always respect your colleagues and fellow workers

• Always work in public interest

• Strive to promote an environment of tolerance and openness
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An ethical dilemma is a situation that often involves an apparent conflict between moral imperatives, in which to obey one would result in transgressing another. It is a situation which is neither white nor black and it makes decision-making complex.

An ethical dilemma is a situation where we:

• Do not know the right course of action

• Have difficulty doing what is considered as right

• Confronted with opposing values and compelling loyalties

• Find the wrong choice very tempting

• Being attracted by private gains to abuse public or private office

Some Examples . . .

1. You are in charge of an enquiry to be conducted in an organisation. While going through the file, you notice that the organization to be inspected is your own brother-in-law’s. What do you do?

a. Continue with your work and conduct the enquiry.
b. Hand over the file to your colleague.
c. Contact your brother-in-law immediately and happily inform him of this matter.
d. Report to management of this issue.
e. Declare the nature of this interest in writing and get yourself replaced.

2. You are working in your office when suddenly an individual comes in. You recall having had dealings with him in the past. He dropped by to thank you for your kind cooperation in previous matters and offers you a small token. What do you do?

a. Accept the gift and keep it as a secret.
b. Accept the gift and talk about it to your colleagues.
c. Accept the gift and declare to top management of this issue.
d. Decline the offer gently and inform top management.

3. You happen to see a malpractice going on in your file. Your colleague is manipulating an important issue. What do you do?

a. Disclose the fact to the Head of the Organisation.
b. Talk to the colleague and warn him.
c. Write an anonymous letter to the head of the Organisation.
d. Just turn a blind eye on the malpractice.
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Dealing with ethical dilemmas is often very complex. It is difficult to choose the right course of action. Choosing the right course of action depends on the ability to evaluate complex, ambiguous and incomplete facts, and the skill to implement ethical decisions effectively. To deal with these types of grey situations, various guidelines and models have been developed to ease decision-making process.

When faced with ethical dilemmas, as described in the above examples, the following model can be used to ensure proper ethical decision-making.

Source: Based on ICAC Hong Kong Model