Ethical Dilemma for the Running Engineer

A runner had entered a difficult trail race hoping to beat their Personal Record(PR), from the past year.  The trail was a torturous single track trail, with three elevation gains of 1600 feet.  The runner was doing so well, that they were going to pass their old PR by approximately 30 minutes.  At that very moment the runner heard a snap.  Another runner fell to the ground in pain, unable to complete the race.  The runner has to make a choice at this point, to lose achieving a phenomenal PR, or leaving the injured runner out on the trail to complete the race.  Engineers face these types of ethical dilemmas every day.

When entering into the engineering workforce, ethical dilemmas occur frequently.  Unfortunately for the new eager worker, black and white answers to these dilemmas, such as the one for the runner, do not exist.  You will need to rely on your moral judgement.  So how do you determine the correct decision and maintain your integrity?  Here are some basic steps to follow:

  • Gather Facts:  You never want to jump to a conclusion.  You may not have all necessary information.
  • Define the Issues:  Determine the ethical basis for the issue you want to focus on.
  • Identify the Affected Parties:  Determine who the stakeholders are.  See things from their perspective.
  • Identify the Consequences:  Think of both the positive and negative for the affected parties, and the magnitude of the consequences.
  • Identify the Relevant Principles, Rights and Justice Issues:  What obligations are there due to the ethical principles of the situation? What obligations do you have due to the rights of the stakeholders?
  • Your Character and Integrity:  What specific virtues are relevant in the situation and how do you want to be remembered.
  • Potential Actions:  Think.  Are there alternatives you have not considered?  Determine if you have been unnecessarily forced into a corner.
  • Check your Gut:  Intuition is a good source in decision making; knowing something is not right.

Remember, making the decision is only the first step, the second is being prepared to justify your response to those who disagree.  By following the steps above, you will have all data required to stand your ground.

As for the choice the runner made at the beginning of this blog…I would never leave another runner out to dry!  I helped the injured runner to a location out of the sun, and we waited together for another runner to show up before I left to get help.  In the end, I finished the race two and a half hours over my PR, but I gained a running buddy.

Please leave your comments or story of similar dilemmas .

Author: Natalie Grace Keyser

I am a dedicated Quality/Technology Manager, driven Metallurgical Engineer, Supporter of Future Professional. My professional personality shows in my running, where I will not back down from a challenge or slow down before the finish line is reached.

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