Common Ethical Dilemmas Business Managers Face

Business managers have a lot on their plates, from tackling their own duties to answering employee questions throughout the day. But the greatest challenge that managers face is the dreaded “ethical dilemma.”

What dilemmas will you most likely face as a manager — and more importantly, what should you do about them? Here are some common issues your employees might bring to you.

What Dilemmas Do Managers Face?

Unethical Leadership

Every company hopes that the managers and higher-ups are ethical, upstanding folks. But of course, we all know that isn’t always the case. In fact, some research indicates that managers account for a staggering 60% of workplace misconduct!

If you’re a manager, you have a responsibility to show your team that ethics matters to you. This means that you need to lead as ethically as you can, upholding every compliance standard your company has set. It ALSO means (and this is the real dilemma) that if you witness one of your fellow managers behaving inappropriately, unethically, or illegally, you need to report those behaviors.

Discrimination or Harassment

According to a Glassdoor survey, 61% of Americans have either witnessed or experienced workplace discrimination. Harassment at work has long been a common problem in offices across the country. And for a manager, there is nothing more challenging than handling a report of these kinds of employee misconduct.

The best way to handle this dilemma is with information. Any report of discrimination or harassment warrants a thorough investigation, as this will help you discover the truth of the situation. Work with HR or your company’s compliance manager to properly investigate the report, and then take the appropriate actions against the workers who were involved.


Your typical office is filled with people with many different personalities. Therefore, it’s only natural that some people will connect more easily than others. Usually, this isn’t a problem, but when an office connection turns into favoritism, someone needs to step in.

Managers might treat their friends more favorably by giving them promotions, agreeing to higher pay raises or simply creating a better work environment. This can lower morale across the office, as other employees will feel deflated and unwilling to work for little reward. You can avoid this dilemma by working with HR to make hiring and salary decisions, and by taking special care to treat everyone equally.

Honest Marketing

It’s no secret that marketing… bends the truth from time to time. Overpromising, hyperbole, it’s all part and parcel with marketing your business, right? Too often, managers go along with misleading marketing because they think “that’s just the way it’s done.”

But here’s the reality: today’s consumers know all the old tricks. In today’s business climate, a manager must value ethics in business. Most of the time, they aren’t fooled by false advertising — and in fact, they put real value in honest marketing! If you are a manager working in marketing, you have an opportunity to prioritize ethics and encourage transparent marketing within your business.

Safe Working Conditions

As a manager (particularly in a white-collar setting), it is easy to believe that your focus is centered on your team’s productivity and quality of work. That is an important part of your job, but it’s only part of the equation. You also need to make sure that your employees are safe — both physically and mentally.

A recent survey from Indeed revealed that 52% of respondents were experiencing burnout in their jobs. This can present a real issue for managers that want productivity numbers to rise; burned-out employees can’t perform at the level your organization needs. Giving employees the space to take care of themselves will make them more willing to work hard for you in return.

Employee Social Media Accounts

These days, it’s fairly likely that nearly all your employees have a social media presence. When they’re not in the office working for you, they’re online sharing their opinions about anything and everything — and sometimes, this can lead to trouble.

While you can’t control what your employees tweet on their own time, there is precedent to suggest you can take disciplinary action if their posts damage your business’s reputation or hurt you financially. However, the best way to avoid any issues with staff social media is to set clear expectations for online conduct during new employee training.

Ethics is a valuable aspect of business today, both for consumers and employees. But ethics doesn’t just happen overnight; an ethical business culture must come from the top down. Managers must practice ethical behavior, encourage honesting and reporting misconduct among their teams, and use training to set clear expectations for every employee.

If you make ethics the heart of your management style, the dilemmas we’ve discussed here will rarely be a problem in your office!

Author Bio:Giovanni Gallo is the Co-CEO of ComplianceLine, where his team strives to make the world a better workplace with compliance hotline services, sanction and license monitoring, and workforce eLearning software and services. Growing up as the son of a Cuban refugee in an entrepreneurial family taught Gio how servanthood and deep care for employees can make a thriving business a platform for positive change in the world. He built on that through experience with startups and multinational organizations so ComplianceLine’s solutions can empower caring leaders to build strong cultures for the betterment of every employee and their community. When he’s not working, Gio’s wrangling his two young kids, riding his motorcycle, and supporting education, families, and the homeless in the Charlotte community.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.