Managing Ethical Conflict in the Workplace


  • An interest in managing ethical conflict


Ethical conflict in the workplace is a subtype of general interpersonal conflict in the workplace with pronounced ethical undertones which serves as a powerful reminder of how the values in the institution are interpreted and applied when tested, beyond flat platitudinous statements.

Personnel in management/leadership positions are often the first port of call before an ethical issue might be escalated to ethics/legal/investigations/external regulatory bodies. However, frequently, leaders and management personnel might be entirely unprepared to receive, contain and address such ethical concerns before they snowball into larger conflicts.

These conflicts can be divisive, and a small proportion of these cases could even result in full-fledged investigations which could be resource-intensive for the institution – which could have been averted had they been addressed at the first instance.

In this short course, we shadow Joel, the leader who is faced with a conundrum.

One of his youngest recruits, Rebecca, has raised concerns about some issues which trouble her about the decisions made by senior personnel under Joel’s leadership.

When confronted with a tense situation like this, many leaders might prefer instead to avoid the underlying recalcitrant, stubborn ethical questions to either prioritize keeping the peace, dismissing ethical concerns. Leaders might face severe limitations in addressing and containing conflict which emerges from underlying ethical concerns.

While Joel’s first instinct might be to simply dismiss these concerns, he instead chooses to work through the 5 step framework – AICCC – Acknowledge-Investigate – Consider – Communicate and Conclude – Cement the solution.

  • First step: Acknowledge the complaint immediately
  • Second step: Investigate – start the fact-finding process – check and compare narratives
  • Third step: Consider – spend time in silent deliberation to consider the information, weighing the facts and reflecting on the how individual values, your own leadership values, and the values of the institution as contextualised within the larger ecosystem the institution operates in. This is also the right time to consider the root cause of this instance of ethical conflict.
  • Fourth step: Communicate – communicate and check to see if the understanding arrived at is accurate with the relevant parties to the dispute. Conclude and communicate an abstract version which respects confidentiality to the other personnel in the team.
  • Fifth step: Cement the solution at the individual/unit/organisational levels and handle the instance of ethical conflict at its root.

Disclaimer: This course does not purport to provide legal advice. This course provides a framework for personnel in management/leadership positions to receive ethical concern complaints.

Who this course is for:

  • You are a leader, and you are concerned at the upsurge in the number of interpersonal disputes, some of which have ethical undertones.
  • As a leader, you are keen to effectively reconciling conflict to strengthen the culture of your unit and the larger company/institution/organization.
  • You work in Ethics & Compliance, and you recognize the potential to effectively contain serious concerns by addressing them early-on.
  • A HR professional – you’re thinking through how to leverage employee dissent
  • You are a concerned bystander, troubled by some unethical decisions being taken in your workplace.
  • You are anyone who is interested in how organizations handle ethical conflict
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