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Ethical Dilemma or Modern Trend: You Decide

Ethical Dilemma or Modern Trend: You Decide


How should entrepreneurs deal with an ethical dilemma? Do they face it head on, or pause and weigh options. The pros and the cons of handling the situation in an unethical manner.

Normally, having a personal code of honor is admirable, but putting your values into your work isn’t always easy.

Hear me out!

ethical dilemma vs moneyWhile ethics can be very personal, for some entrepreneurs, the behavior, good or bad, impacts the pocketbook. As a result, the individual may place their ethics on “pause”, based on the level of potential financial impact.

So, you tell me…

An ethical dilemma or a new trend?

Ethical behavior, as defined by in the Free Dictionary is “action taken in accordance with principles of conduct that are considered correct, and conforming to accepted standards of social or professional behavior”.

Wikipedia defines ethical dilemma as a decision-making problem between two possible moral imperatives, neither of which is unambiguously acceptable or preferable.

Dictionary defines a trend as, “a general direction in which something is developing or changing”.

Considering the above definitions, how would you characterize the following two scenarios?

First request

Recently, I received a request for a quote from a potential client. She wrote: “I need someone to pass a typing test with a speed of at least 65 wpm and 95% accuracy.”

Because I didn’t quite understand her request, I reached out for better clarification. I asked if she wanted me to take the test, using her name? The person responded “YES“. After getting past my amazement that someone would request such services, I responded…

My reply

“I consider completing a test using another person’s name and on their behalf to be totally unethical. It is something I would NOT do under any circumstances.” Needless to say, this person never contacted me again.

ethical dilemmas impact your moral compass.Second request

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first situation where I’ve had to make a decision, based on my moral compass. Recently, I was working with two clients who happen to be friends. As a matter of fact, one referred the other. It was obvious that they had a very good personal and business relationship.

However, at some point (I’m sure that you’re familiar with what I’m about to report), the relationship soured. One individual began asking questions about the other. This naturally caused me to feel uncomfortable, although I maintained a great relationship with both and continued working with them.

Eventually, this perilous situation became an even more uncomfortable. Not only because the person was asking about proprietary information, but also because he actually thought I would share what he wanted to know.

The reply

I reminded the person about our contract’s confidentiality clause (which he signed), and that as I wouldn’t consider sharing his information, I also would not/could not share the other party’s. I also informed him that if he didn’t stop asking questions regarding the other client’s business, I would stop working with him.

What would you do?

Is this the beginning of a new trend or a personal ethical dilemma? Do prospects believe virtual professionals will do anything for a dollar? Has the industry’s brand been degraded to the point where prospective clients are “comfortable” asking me to perform in an unethical manner?

I couldn’t, wouldn’t!

As described in the first case, the inquirer wanted me to portray her and take a test in her name. The second asked me to break a trust by revealing proprietary and confidential information. I was surprised and frankly taken aback by both requests.

I wonder, if a person will ask a professional to perform unethical acts, can you trust the requester to act ethically in other dealings?

ethical dilemma choices, right, wrong, it dependsRecommended Ethical Behaviors

While an ethical dilemma differs from a moral dilemma because it very much involves following rules rather than one’s conscience. Your conscience can certainly move you to consider breaking the rules.

To forego this possibility, Matt Sweetwood, recommends 6 steps to manage an ethical dilemma.

1. Never Lie. It’s immoral and could cause a bigger problem for you than the original situation.

2. Don’t respond more quickly than you need to. Sometimes things work out without any input from you or the facts on the ground can change.

3. Understand your legal, ethical and moral responsibilities and adhere to all agreements you have made.

4. Reach out to outside experts that can provide you with ideas, advice, and insight.

5. Devise a strategy based on facts, logic, and sound advice.

6. Prepare in advance how and what you are going to communicate and act with confidence.

“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” – Potter Stewart

What do you think?

I’m not naive by any means, but these were truly another “first” for me, and I am perplexed that someone would visit The 24 Hour Secretary (and potentially other VA sites) and feel comfortable enough to ask for a quote for what I perceive to be unethical acts or to break a professional confidence.

Frankly, I don’t believe (at least hope) that our website or reputation portrays an image that encourages these type of requests. That’s why I wonder if this is a one-off situation or a new ethics trend.

Have you ever received inquiries that may have caused you to face an ethical dilemma or question your integrity? Is this a fluke or a new trend? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

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Filed Under: Branding, Industry trends


Meet the author:

Sharon is an Online Marketing & Social Media Consultant and the President of The 24 Hour Secretary. She helps clients develop and implement online marketing strategies that showcase their brand and grow the business. Subscribe to Smart Business = Success for tips and strategies for building your business.

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