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Ethical Decision Making: A Challenge That Every Organization Should Be Prepared For

13 Mar 2024 11:42 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

Ethical Decision Making: A Challenge That Every Organization Should Be Prepared For

by Enas Aref

Cornerstone of Organizational Integrity and Success

In the realm of management and industry, ethical decision-making stands as the cornerstone of organizational integrity and success. From the infamous Ford Pinto case to several other ethical challenges in disaster and emergency management, the impact of ethical decision-making reverberates across various sectors.  Ethical decision-making in management is a critical aspect of organizational behavior. To effectively apply knowledge in this context, it is essential to understand the complexities of ethical decision-making especially that ethical dilemmas are an inevitable element in decision making (Arar & Saiti, 2022). As organizations navigate complex ethical dilemmas, the need for a systematic approach to ethical decision-making becomes increasingly apparent.

The Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK) defines ethics as “concerned with the kinds of values and morals an individual or society ascribes as desirable or appropriate” (EMBOK, 2019, p. 301). Ethical behavior can be described as acting in a socially responsible manner by doing the right thing and acting in the appropriate way that yields benefits for the organization’s stakeholders. Ethical behavior may manifest itself in treating others with respect, serving others and building the community, showing justice and manifesting honesty.

These characteristics of ethical behavior rely heavily on the values of the individuals and their individual or collective behavior within an organization. These characteristics are certainly pre-requisites for ethical decision-making. However, their presence does not necessarily ensure that ethical decision-making will be achieved at all times. For that reason, organizations are highly encouraged to train, promote, and empower their employees to achieve and sustain ethical decision-making. Organization size and location affects the “ethical decision-making” model adopted and practiced by the employees. Research has shown differences between family-owned, small and medium-sized, global, and international businesses in the role that individuals play and how that affects ethical decision making.

 How to Promote Ethical Decision Making

With that said, let’s discuss how to promote ethical decision making in your organization:

a) Training

Training individuals on ethical decision-making is crucial in the field of engineering management to ensure that professionals are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate complex ethical dilemmas that may arise in their work.  By providing training on ethical decision-making, organizations can help employees understand the importance of ethical behavior, develop critical thinking skills to assess ethical issues, and cultivate a culture of integrity and accountability within the workplace. Employees should be empowered to reflect on their own values and capitalize on them and share commonalities with the organization’s values. Human decisions cannot be made apart from their own values. Ethical decision-making training can help individuals in engineering management to recognize ethical issues, understand the implications of their decisions on various stakeholders, and evaluate alternative courses of action based on ethical principles and values. This training can also enhance individuals' ability to communicate effectively about ethical concerns, seek guidance when faced with ethical dilemmas, and uphold ethical standards in their professional practice. By investing in ethical decision-making training and promoting a culture of ethics and values, organizations can cultivate a workforce that is committed to upholding ethical standards and making decisions that align with the organization's values and principles. Ultimately, by prioritizing ethical decision-making in engineering management, organizations can enhance their reputation, build trust with stakeholders, and contribute to a more ethical and sustainable future

b) Cultural Change

Promoting a culture where ethics and values are emphasized and practiced is essential in fostering an environment where ethical decision-making is valued and supported. Organizations can achieve this by establishing clear ethical guidelines and policies, providing resources for ethical decision-making support, and recognizing and rewarding ethical behavior. By creating a culture that prioritizes ethics and values, organizations can empower employees to make ethical decisions with confidence and integrity. Enabling people to make ethical decisions in engineering management requires a multifaceted approach that includes training, mentorship, and organizational support.

c) Leaders

Do you have an “Exemplar”? That person who demonstrates high sense of moral commitment as a core part of their sense of self (Savur & Sandhu, 2017). Exemplars are the ones that you need to spot, encourage their behavior, empower them to lead and share knowledge. Learning and training does not necessarily have to happen in a meeting room with a prepared slide show and a neatly dressed presenter. Ethical decision-making is a hands-on task that people can learn by observing and inquiring.


 What next?

 Finally, encourage engineering managers to reflect on their current practices, assess the ethical climate of their teams and organizations, and take proactive steps to enhance ethical decision-making capabilities.


Arar, K., & Saiti, A. (2022). Ethical leadership, ethical dilemmas and decision making among school administrators. Equity in Education & Society, 1(1), 126–141. https://doi.org/10.1177/27526461211070828

EMBOK. (2019). A guide to the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (H. Shah & W. Nowocin, Eds.; 5th ed.).

Savur, S., & Sandhu, S. (2017). Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making. Emerald Publishing Limited. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/wmichlib-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4790518

About the Author

Enas Aref is an Instructor and Doctoral Researcher at Department of Industrial & Entrepreneurial Engineering and Engineering Management at Western Michigan University

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