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Day 56 – Q 4.What are the potential sources of ethical dilemmas in public and private institutions? Illustrate.

4. What are the potential sources of ethical dilemmas in public and private institutions? Illustrate. 

सार्वजनिक और निजी संस्थानों में नैतिक दुविधाओं के संभावित स्रोत क्या हैं? उदाहरण देकर स्पष्ट करें।


Ethical dilemmas are situations in which there is a choice to be made between two options, neither of which resolves the situation in morally satisfactory manner. It is a circumstance that requires a choice between competing ideologies in a given, usually undesirable or confusing situation. 


Potential sources of ethical dilemmas in Public institutions:

  • Administrative dilemma: The promotion of general welfare depends on the use or exploitation of administrative discretion. For ex: Public servants given a responsibility to approve a project to build a dam which would provide irrigation water to lakhs of acres. However, such approval could displace thousands of tribes.
  • Public accountability and administrative secrecy: Not having enough transparency in all processes due to confidentiality.  Ex: whether the cost and process of Rafael deal should be put in public domain or secrecy for national security must be maintained.
  • Law and compassion: For ex: A needy person who does not fulfil the one or two criteria of a welfare scheme but due to empathy and compassion, a public servant may want to help him/her. A dilemma here is between empathy, compassion and following the prescribed law.
  • Policy dilemmas: Working towards the best interest of the community versus being responsive to the government. For ex: a favour of capitalism/liberal economy to sustain economic growth versus state ownership to maintain fair distribution of resources.
  • Personal morals: When the directives are in contrast with own personal values of public officials.
  • Personal interest and duty: For ex: When an Army officer is in a critical location handling key duties and his mother is sick or wife is pregnant and needs his presence at home.

Potential sources of ethical dilemmas in Private institutions:

  • Personal job security over wrong dismissal of colleague: For ex: When an employee knows his/her colleague has not done the mistake he/she has been blamed for by the upper level management, but does not speak up because of fear of losing job. Another scenario is where the person knows the upper level employee is guilty but he/she does not complain because of fear of being fired.
  • Company rules over personal morals: For ex: An honest person facing dilemma over carrying out a dishonest company pitching knowing that it is not as beneficial as exhibited.
  • Societal dilemmas: For ex: When you know someone is being unfairly treated but continue staying silent over the matter because of societal impression and acceptance.
  • Professional duty and personal life: When you have to honour confidentiality of patients, clients etc but know a controversy or crisis is going to be caused.


Assessing the ethical concern of both government and private organization, it can be understood that the challenges posed by ethical dilemma sometimes make a person to be at a lost with no solution in sight. Proper training, code of conduct, emotional intelligence, keeping the public interest above and adherence to the values of integrity, objectivity, honesty in one’s own private life etc. will ensure a just and ethical conduct.

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