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Moral Dilemma on Pilferage Reaction Paper

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To choose between two or more actions with moral reasons is called a Moral dilemma. Moral dilemmas are experienced in ordinary lives. In this paper, the dilemma on being a witness to pilferage is analyzed and evaluated. The two sides of the situation are explored. Consequences are also drawn from taking either of the options: to tell the management or not. However, using business ethics and legal implications, it is best to side with the management as it would entail proper action to address the problem.

Dilemmas are experienced by ordinary people every day. Some dilemmas need ethical considerations and these are called Moral Dilemmas. The question of what would you do, or is it the right thing to do, is often pondered upon when facing moral dilemmas. The choices made by individuals facing dilemmas implicate the person’s personality.

The Dilemma

During a job interview, the interviewer presented scenarios to evaluate the ethical values of a person. The interviewer asked, “If you caught one of your colleagues committing pilferage, hiding in the stock room, what would you do?” To make this more complicated, the interviewer added, “Your colleague asked you to keep it a secret and began to reason out why he does it. He wants to get back at the company for not granting his salary increase.” The question is, would you tell the management or remain silent?

You tell the management because it is the most ethical thing to do.

To analyze the dilemma, it is good to look at the following terms:

Business Ethics

The term “business ethics” refer to a wide range of issues that the world of commerce is concerned with. It is directed not only to individuals’ behavior and principles in moral dilemma, but also covers institutions and organizations as a whole. Since business ethics is broad, it was narrowed into three sublevels namely, the micro-level, mid-level and macro-level.

Employee Theft

There is a wide range of misconduct considered as employee theft. This includes from pilfering/pilferage (a petty kind of theft) to grand theft for example stealing more than $250.


Pilferage is a form of stealing and stealing is against the law. It is a problem for most companies. However, there are ways to prevent pilferage such as establishing a high end security. Pilferage can also occur during a transport of a particular good.

It is the more prevalent kind of employee theft. Though it is petty, it still has devastating impact to a business.

In “The Relationship between immediate turnover and employee theft in the restaurant industry”, a research paper by Peg Thoms and co-writers (2001), they cited a research done by Wimbush and Dalton (1997) which found that a third or half of business failures are caused by employee theft. Thom’s paper was to examine a correlation with turnover and pilferage, how some employees are more likely to commit the theft before leaving the company.

On another note, there are many reasons why employees commit pilferage. Most of them are caused by the organization’s decisions and actions which seem unfair to the worker, thus, resulting to retaliation. Pilferage is one form of resisting the management, as in the scenario wherein the employee demands for higher pay.

In the dilemma, we could use business ethics in the micro-level to evaluate the action to be undertaken to solve the problem. The company, for sure, has established rules and regulations, and placed employees’ rights and obligations in the contract. Any action that will breach this contract will result to termination. In layman’s terms, your colleague agreed to this contract in the first place, and therefore is accountable for consequences related to his violation. On the other hand, we look at the employee’s side. Is there really, according to Skarlicki & Folger (1997), an “underpayment inequity” in the company? If there is, it would still be best to let the management know about the pilferage so they would be able to address the problem and take some action based on the root cause. Perhaps they would grant the salary increase. As for your colleague, he might just be given a warning. If not, he might be terminated. Also, the consequence of not telling would lead to a messy inventory proving that the supplies room is unmonitored. It would cost the company expenses as they would need to replenish the supplies stolen. This could lead to the company’s downfall. Choosing not tell would delay the time the employee would be caught. Eventually, the company will find out.

Weighing out the consequences and the options, despite your relationship with your colleague, it would still be ethical to tell the management. Informing the management means you are placing the issue in their hands and therefore, they will act on the issue. This could of course alleviate any tension between your colleague and the management. It is possible to build a bridge of communication between them.

As a conclusion, pilferage is a common problem in the business industry and has placed a devastating impact in some companies. Being a witness to pilferage is a big moral dilemma. A thorough analysis of the situation should be done in order to solve the problem. In the scenario given by the interviewer, the best way to go around it is to side with the management. It will not only get you the job (as this was asked during an interview) but it would raise the issue to the higher positions in the company. Using business ethics and legal implications, the best decision is to tell the management.

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