Ethical dilemmas can occur at any workplace. For this reason, codes of ethics are developed to help guide and set the standards for moral conduct for that profession. Code of ethics also helps establish procedures on how to deal with misconduct. While serving in the United States Navy, I came across several ethical dilemmas in my workplace. One dilemma that I remember clearly is one in which an officer (higher rank) and enlisted (lower rank) were involved in fraternization.
Fraternization in the Navy is not acceptable and is referred to as a relationship between an enlisted and officer who are dating, who engage in intimate behavior, share a home, borrow money or gamble. Fraternization in the military can be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. On board the Navy ship there were approximately a total of 350 service members who were both men and women. Interaction between both sexes was inevitable; however two service members on board took it too far.
There was a service member (enlisted male) who began to have a relationship with his boss (female officer). Both agreed to keep their relationship a secret while onboard the ship. One after noon I was out in town at a local store when I spotted both members holding hands together. I was not friends with either one, and did not say anything to them. I realized that their behavior was non ethical, but I did not want to be involved. Looking back at the situation my thoughts about it followed the principles of nonmaleficence. Nonmaleficence refers as doing no harm or mischief.
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I thought to myself that they were not causing harm to anyone therefore I did not want to report them. Through an ethical relativism view I realized that the dilemma was not morally wrong however, the situation in which they were engages did not follow the ethical standards of the workplace. However my view about the whole situation changed when I talked about it with another co-worker and she informed me that the female officer was married. The fact that she was married completely changed my perspective about the situation.
Now, not only was it ethically wrong but it was morally wrong too. At this point the dilemma then interfered with my personal values. My personal values are may not be the same to the ones of others; however the choices they made went against my beliefs and values. Growing up I was always taught that fidelity and commitment to your partner is very important. I put myself in the spouse’s shoes and realized I would never want to go through that. The behaviors the engaged were bothersome and I felt very uncomfortable around them.
I can relate this dilemma to the thoughts of Socrates, that no one voluntarily does evil when they know good. If evil is done is because there is some type of benefit within for that person committing evil. The officer in this case is aware of the evil she is committing, however she is gaining comfort, perhaps love, or pleasure from her behavior with the enlisted male. Both personnel practiced ethical egoism, due to fact that they only care about their happiness and did not care about those who got hurt.
This is when I realized that I needed to speak up about this dilemma. In order to resolve this dilemma I needed to speak up and report what I knew and saw to my higher chain of command. I would have to say that I applied the theory of Kant. Good will and motivation was the base of my decision to report the dilemma. I knew that making this decision was going to bring bad consequences for both members, however I did what I thought was best. In my decision making process with the Kantian approach, ethical decisions were based on my sense of duty.
The word duty is derived from the Greek word deon (deontological). Duty refers to the acts of a person based on the principles of morality. In this decision making approach I had to make decisions based on what is right rather than the good or bad consequences that will follow. A person must make the morally right decision regardless of the good or bad outcome. Categorical imperative is what determines whether an act is morally right or wrong. The requirements of categorical imperatives are that moral principles are applied by respecting humanity.
In this deontological point of view a person should act rational person and make self-imposed decisions. After reporting the situation to the chain of command, I was asked to speak up and testify along with others who had observed the same behaviors. Both services members were punished by the UCMJ and forced out of the military. The consequences to their behavior are what constitute it to be wrong. The ethical dilemma went against my personal values and belief. This is why I decided to speak up and report what I knew regardless of the consequences.
Both members were aware of the good and evil and instead decided to go for the evil not that they could hurt others. This ethical dilemma not only affected them in a personal level but affected the work place as well. After all the consequences, sailors onboard are very careful about fraternization. Workplace ethical dilemmas can happen at any work place, therefore it is important to maintain an updated code of ethics. This will help and guide employees on procedures , employee conduct and misconduct consequences.
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