Every day people make decisions that may have profound effect on their personal and/or professional lives as well as the lives of others. The decision people make have a foundation on their personal, cultural, and perhaps organizational values. When these values are in disagreement, an ethical dilemma occurs.
This article attempts to explain how personal, cultural, and organizational values play significant parts in decision-making. In addition, the foundation of ethical dilemmas can often be traced to conflicting values. This paper will also briefly discuss how ethical dilemmas can be mitigated. A practical approach for understanding how ethical dilemmas occur, how dilemmas can be prevented, and how to make ethical decisions can best be done by studying how these values, particularly personal values, affect behavior and influence the decision-making.
Personal and Cultural Values
People's values have an immense effect on how people live and the choices they make. According to Disbrow (n.d.), "personal values will always be the cornerstone of decisions." The development of personal values and beliefs begin in childhood when people interact with organizational units such as families, caregivers, educational and religious institutions, etc. (Hopen, 2002). Experiences and interaction with organizational units influence the values people deem important to them. Personal values become a personal blueprint for people on how to live their lives, their convictions, and the decisions they make. Connor (2003) concludes "values are global beliefs that transcendentally guide actions and judgments across specific objects and situations."
Similar to personal values, cultural values are deep-rooted since childhood. Srnka (2004) states that cultural values are deep-rooted in social heritage/traditions and encompass psychological, religious or spiritual, and moral experiences. In his research study of ten nations, Jackson (2001) finds that "significant differences are shown to exist among country cultures on issues which, although relatively minor, are part of the decision-making fabric within organizations across the globe." In a culturally diverse population, decision-making can be very complicated as the participants have different cultural upbringing and cultures. Jackson (2001) adds that the challenge includes the culture's position on uncertainty-avoidance that affects the decision-making process. Furthermore, different cultures have different interpretation and adherence to rules, and consideration of outcomes that will affect how individuals and organizations derive a decision. Srkna (2001) further adds that there are four different levels of culture namely supraculture (similar economic system, ethnicity, religion), macroculture (origin, nationality), mesoculture (professional group or industry), and microculture (organizations, families, or clan). These varying levels of culture further adds to the complexity of the decision-making process as...