The journey through an ethical dilemma often exudes the reflection of one’s moral makeup. It is an expression of conscience, a demonstration of character and a declaration of the moral ground on which you stand. With every dilemma encountered, there is the chance to learn and grow from the experience. Therefore, I chose a dilemma from my past, one that I will dissect and analyze with tools recently gained. My objective is to gain additional clarity of the situation and see new perspectives revealed. Dilemma Several years ago, I worked as a Human Resources Representative for a manufacturing organization.
In this role, I served as the backup for the accounting manager. As such, one of my responsibilities was to process payroll in her absence. It was during one of these occurrences, that an ethical dilemma presented itself to me. It was the first said quandary I faced in my professional career. A benefit provided by the organization was an annual allotment of one hundred dollars for a pair of steel toed boots. The subsidy was paid through reimbursement after an employee submitted an expense report with proof of purchase.
On this particular day, as I was working to process payroll, an employee, Karen, came into my office to deliver her expense report. As she gave it to me, she said, “Here is my expense report. I am seeking reimbursement for steel toed shoes. Well, actually the shoes are Doug’s, but he already used his benefit and I don’t need new ones for myself so I told him he could have my steel toed shoe allowance for this year. ” I saw red flags immediately. Karen was a kind person. I knew she was trying to help out a coworker and had good intentions. However, I couldn’t approve her expense report.
I shifted in my seat and grudgingly reminded Karen that reimbursement benefits are not transferable. She immediately protested my refusal and began to argue her case. In her mind, the benefit was “hers” and she should be able to do with it what she wished, even if it meant “gifting” it to another employee. I offered the example that if the benefit was “hers” and she didn’t use it, at the end of the year she would be entitled to that sum from the company. However, this was not how the benefit was set up to be. It was strictly a reimbursement benefit, awarded once a year to each employee.
If an employee did not choose to purchase a new pair of steel toed shoes, than there was no reimbursement benefit paid out to the employee. In her last attempt at convincing me to process her expense report, she asked me if I could just forget what she said earlier and process her expense report as if it was her own. She felt badly because she had assured Doug he could have her reimbursement benefit. Once again, I had to decline. I sympathized with her predicament. Nonetheless, I would not violate my ethical compass and betray the trust of the executives who placed me in the position.
It has been my experience, working in a manufacturing facility that rules are meant to be broken. However, I was not about to break the rules which govern me personally. I had a reputation for being a straight shooter in this organization. While willing to help whenever I could, employees knew I wouldn’t cross a line to do so. Holding a position of power, sometimes my hands were tied, whether I liked it or not. It was not my money to give. They were company funds. Therefore, I was bound by company rules when administering them. Navigate There are a variety of methods available to assist in navigating through a dilemma.
To further explore the predicament and enhance my standpoint, I will utilize the Potter Box method and Rest’s Four Component Model to examine my dilemma presented above. Potter Box “The Potter Box introduces four dimensions of moral analysis to aid us in locating those places where most misunderstandings occur. Along these lines, we can construct action guides” (Christians, 2013, p. 3). The four dimensions of this model are: Definition, Values, Principles, and Loyalties. Definition. The first step is to define the facts of the situation.
Thus, in this case, Karen wants to claim coworker Doug’s expense as her own in an attempt to share her reimbursement benefit with him. Both Karen and Doug are longtime employees. They each have participated in ethics training and possess a company policy handbook. Company policy stipulates that expenses submitted for reimbursement must belong to the employee whose name is on the expense report. Furthermore, reimbursement benefits are nontransferable and, if not used, expire at the end of the year. Lastly, the company has an ethics policy stating that employees must operate with integrity. Values.
The next dimension in the Potter Box model is values. “Each value influences discourse and reasoning on moral questions” (Christians, 2013, p. 4). Therefore, I must ask the question, what values contributed to this dilemma? Karen values compassion, fairness, and helping others. I share Karen’s value of compassion. However, I also strongly value commitment and integrity. The differences in values is the root of our opposing positions. Principles. Kant’s Categorical Imperative is suitable for this dilemma. The main premise is, what is right for one is right for all. Company policy governs all employees.
As a representative of the company, not only am I bound by their policies, but in the sensitive position I’m in, there is a higher expectation to adhere to them. Rules cannot be enforced on some and not others. According to Christians (2013), “check the underlying principle of your decision, and see whether you want it applied universally. The test of a genuine moral obligation is that it can be universalized” (p. 12). Consequently, my decision passes the test and can be panoptic. Loyalties. My loyalties are based on the following duties in order of importance: conscience, family, organization and my coworkers.
Above all, I must be true to myself and allow my inner voice to guide me through life. I hold myself to a high standard of integrity. Additionally, my family is of the upmost importance. Everything I do is for them and their future. My actions are an example to my children. Furthermore, maintaining good standing with my employer provides financial security and a comfortable life for my family. The organization that employs me has my loyalty. They provide me with opportunity, education, and financial independence. I would not abuse their trust or go fail to meet their expectations.
Lastly, my coworkers. Out of respect for the others, I would not bend the rules for one. To do so, would be turning my back on all of my loyalties. Potter Box Analysis. Working through the Potter Box method brought several things to light I failed to consider in my opening recollection. Investigating the situation on a deeper level allowed me to acknowledge Karen’s point-of-view and understand her stance. However, the conclusion of my dilemma remains unchanged. I stand by my initial decision. Nevertheless, the knowledge gained through this experiment validates my actions and strengthens my position.