XAT Decision Making: How to approach Ethical Dilemma Questions?

Ethical dilemmas make a frequent appearance in the XAT decision-making section and these questions can leave you in quite a tangle for one simple reason: ethical standards vary person to person and there is an inherent subjectivity with which individuals view varying positions.

Essentially, these questions are a test of the following:

  1. your ability to understand the various ethical dimensions to a question and select an appropriate answer.
  2. your practical understanding of the situation and balancing practicality and ethical responsibility.
  3. your ability to comprehend situations, which might have multiple dimensions to it.

In fact, the first thing we need to do is understand what ‘ethics’ is all about and what do we mean when say that ethical decisions need to be taken.

Definition of Ethics:
Ethics refer to the moral code and principles that rule a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity. According to definition provided by Merriam-Webster, ethics refers to the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.

In the context of business and management, there is an extremely essential need for maintaining ethical standards. There is a reason why this is the case: in organizations, government departments and other real-world scenarios, there are multiple stakeholders in every situation. The only way to be fair and just in these situations, where different parties might have different interests, is to adhere to a code of ethics and make sure one is impartial in one’s decision making.

Keep in mind that a code of ethics allows individuals to make just decisions and on several occasions, these decisions will be humane in nature. Therefore, it makes sense to adopt such a code.

Two Caveats here:
There are two things that you need to keep in mind:

  1. Irrespective of the practical thinking that you need to exhibit in these questions, there is an element of text-book approach in decision-making questions. At the end of the day, you still need to select the legal and ethical approach. In real-life, this may not be case.
  2. Remember, the above theory and pointers are indicators for this question type. There cannot be absolute rules for this subject and you need to keep this in mind.

Sample Question highlighting ethical dilemma:

Your company makes the most famous brand of noodles in the country, Naggi. Recently, the National Food Testing Bureau took samples of your popular noodles from the market. During the routine testing, it discovered that the lead levels in your noodles were twice the permissible ones. Subsequently, the bureau ordered a ban on the sale of your noodles. Being the prime product of your company, heavy losses are expected if the sales of Naggi are banned.

Your boss wants the ban to be removed at all costs and has instructed you to approach the bureau officials before the re-test. He has told you to get the bureau’s approval at any cost. You believe that the noodles still need some more remedial work and there is high chance that the noodles will fail the follow-up test.

What should you do in the given context?

  1. Since the directive is given by your boss, you should go ahead it and bribe the officials to get the noodles approved.
  2. You should apply for the re-test and hope that the sample passes the test.

III. You should say no to your boss and take no immediate action.

  1. You should push the R&D team to rectify the product as soon as possible.
  2. You should provide proof to your boss how bribing officials might backfire if another failure report comes in from another agency.
  3. You should resign from the said job.
  1. I & II
  2. I & IV
  3. III & VI
  4. IV & V
  5. IV & VI

Answer: 4
This is a question which clearly has an ethical context in place. One thing is clear: XAT decision-making questions do not entertain unethical practices. This means statement I is directly ruled out. Let’s look at the other statements one at a time.

Statements II does not amount to anything as in the given case, it does not solve the given problem. Since the product is not good enough, it will only lead to a failure report.

Statement III adopts a confrontational approach and again does nothing to resolve the situation. Remember, you need to provide solutions here and being a fence-sitter does not help.

Statement IV is a logical recourse. It helps in finding a permanent solution to the problem.

Statement V provides further evidence for the avoidance of the unethical stand. Remember, in the given case, you need to use facts and logic to change the decision taken by the boss.

Statement VI could have been the answer had the combination of IV and V not existed. Also, it is an extreme step and only comes into the picture if the said boss is not open to persuasion. Since the question asks what should be done by this person, statements IV and V combine to provide a good path.

XAT Decision-Making: Articles and Tests

Introduction and Seven-Basic Rules
Article-1: Approach for XAT Decision Making: Stakeholder Analysis
Article-2: XAT Decision Making: Ethical Dilemma Questions
XAT Decision Making: Test-1