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Five questions for addressing ethical dilemmas

Gerard L. Rossy (Professor of management at California State University, Northridge, consults with private and public sector companies on strategic management, leadership and ethics (

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 8 November 2011




This paper aims to offer a framework of five questions for analyzing ethical dilemmas faced by managers and professionals. The framework's main purpose is to help individuals understand the nature of ethical issues and to avoid making ethical mistakes – decisions or actions that are unintentionally unethical that they would later regret and wish they could undo.


The framework developed is based on traditional ethical theories reframed into a set of simple questions that have been applied in a variety of private‐ and public‐sector organizations to help managers identify and resolve ethical dilemmas and conflicts.


The benefits of this framework are that the five questions cover the broad range of underlying factors that create ethical issues and dilemmas, are simple and easy for individuals to understand and remember and, considered together, help to identify conflicting ethical priorities.

Practical implications

Most breaches of ethics are not intentional and most individuals want to behave ethically. Their breach of ethics is often the result of making decisions without adequately thinking through the implications and possible consequences. The application of this simple framework can help individuals and organizations avoid making such ethical mistakes.


The framework has helped public‐ and private‐sector organizations evaluate and cope with ethical issues and value conflicts.



Rossy, G.L. (2011), "Five questions for addressing ethical dilemmas", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 39 No. 6, pp. 35-42.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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