Ethical dilemmas: Reducing risk

Last updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It is not possible to plan for every conceivable ethical dilemma that you might encounter. Each problem encountered will be different and will require an element of professional judgement, discretion and experience.

Having said this, some general points should always be borne in mind when dealing with ethical problems:

  • Always give yourself thinking time before replying.

  • Consult with appropriate colleagues and/or managers before answering.

  • There is no single ‘right’ answer to most ethical dilemmas, but you should be able to justify what you do.

  • Do not answer queries that are beyond your sphere of expertise or available resources.

  • Research your answers thoroughly, and document carefully everything that you do.

  • You do not have to answer every question that you are asked: you can say ‘no’.

  • Be honest.
In difficult cases it is good practice to note your reasons for deciding to act as you did, so you can show that you weighed up the pros and cons. This may be the case when, on balance, you refuse to disclose information as much as when you decide to provide it.