Are you looking for ethical dilemmas at the workplace? Moral questions you can answer when you are asked during a job interview how you have handled a moral dilemma? Or topics for intervision and peer coaching with colleagues? Or are you looking for a subject for a moral reflection, discussion or for an argument that has to do with work? Then this article may help you. Below you will find a list of questions with interesting moral questions that may arise in the workplace.


Moral questions

Below you will find a list of moral questions that may arise in the course of your work. Moral questions are questions about how to live; how to act in order to make life valuable/good. Or as some authors like Michael Sandel say: about what is right and what is wrong.

So the list below is about what acting right is or would be at work.

Because we do not live alone, moral questions are of course almost always about how we should live together. About what the right thing to do is in relation to ourselves and to others; to society.

In the list of moral questions on the work floor below it is even more specific. Namely: what does a good, professional profession require?

Moral questions are moral dilemmas.

The moral questions below are all moral dilemmas. The moral questions below are all moral dilemmas. They are all problems in which important values clash. Values that are all important for living a good life, but which unfortunately do not all go together [1]. 

An example

Take the moral question "To what extent should people in certain professions be obliged to get the flu shot?

Here, the values of self-determination and physical integrity (of the person who would be obligated to have the shot) clash with the value of health (of the people protected by the shot). All these values are important. We want to be able to make our own choices in life and do the work that makes us happy (self-determination). We also want nobody to hurt us physically (physical integrity). And we also want a healthy life (health). But unfortunately you have to choose here. [2]

About where you draw the line in moral dilemmas, people naturally have different opinions.

Moral questions are about what is morally right to do.

The question is always: to what extent is it morally correct if ...? Some philosophers also use the value of justice or the concept of 'doing the right thing' for this. So you get questions like to what extent is it just as ...? or: to what extent is it right if ...? [3]

However, for the sake of readability in the questions below I have not always included 'to what extent is it morally correct' in the phrasing of the question.

If you want to do this and thus draw up a good moral question with it, then you should rewrite the questions. The question then becomes: 'To what extent is it morally correct if [then the problem]'. [4]

Now it is time for the list of questions:


The list of moral questions with moral dilemmas at work


  • What if your new job requires a brain scanner first?
  • To what extent should you possibly allow your new employer to have your mail scanned for character, language, etc.?
  • To what extent are you allowed to ask for video-cv's as an employer?
  • To what extent should we oblige employers to take certain measures to prevent discrimination?
  • To what extent can positive discrimination be justified?
  • To what extent should you allow your DNA to be tested before a job (e.g. to see if you are social)?


  • To what extent should you report punishable behavior of your organization to the police?
  • What if your customer gives you a (large) gift?
  • What else is an acceptable business gift to give?
  • Your boss asks you to fool a client. What do you do?
  • A client makes a decision but you know that he or she does not see the consequences. Do you have to warn him?
  • To what extent should an employee warn customers of all possible defects in a product?
  • You can see that a client is suffering psychologically from something. Do you have to do something with this?
  • What is a fair way of dealing with whistleblowers?

Reward / profit

  • To what extent should everyone within an organization participate in a bonus?
  • What is a boss allowed to earn compared to lower-level employees? Should this be in a certain proportion?
  • To what extent can you express a person's life in money (inspiration: the Ford Pinto case)?
  • Wage transparency? Or in other words: should colleagues share their salaries with each other? (Inspiration: the TED-talk of David Burkus)
  • Is it fair if bankers earn more than nurses?
  • How far may a director go in coming up with a legally permissible construction to earn a lot of money?
  • Couldn't we make employees pay a fine for not doing a certain job or a certain job properly?

Private versus organization

  • What if you overwork but your colleague chooses to go to his or her family?
  • To what extent can you expect a sick person to look at the mail?
  • How much leave is just (different concrete situations are conceivable: for informal care, for fathers, for mothers, for people with a certain illness, etcetera; see also here).
  • When is a relationship with someone at work a step too far? To what extent is an employer allowed to attach employment law consequences to a relationship between employees? (interpretation)
  • What is reasonable private use of your employer's facilities (internet, telephone, ...)?
  • Can the employer impose a good lifestyle on an employee?
  • To what extent should an employer stand up for the privacy of his employees (inspiration: the Transavia diary case)?
  • When does a non-competition clause become a form of modern slavery?
  • To what extent may the employer force an employee to take a flu shot?
  • How far may the employer go in tracking employees via GPS etc.?
  • Which people in his or her network should an employee share with his or her employer/client - via a CRM, for example?
  • To what extent can an employer expect an employee to have a chip implanted?
  • Can an employee - e.g. a supermarket clerk - refuse to wear a pin with a name if this means that customers will look her up online?
  • As an employer, should you encourage your employees to use social media (twitter, facebook, linkedin, ...) even if it means that they sometimes post something stupid?
  • If, despite strong pressure from colleagues and the employer, an employee does not take back gas at work, how fair is it that the employer has to continue to pay the salary if the person is burned out?
  • Should I talk to my colleague about watching videos / social media use / internet / ... during working hours?
  • To what extent is it right for an employer to encourage / support staff in the use of mail on his or her own smartphone? (given the stress, workload, etc. that this can entail)
  • If an employee has to do a stomach reduction, to what extent should this be seen as sick leave? And thus at the employer's expense? And what about laser eye surgery?
  • To what extent can you ask your staff to send a photo (in underwear), so that you as an employer can have company clothing made?
  • May an employee receive a higher allowance from an employer if he has to work more from home (the corona-home allowance for civil servants).

Employment relationship

  • To what extent should the self-employed be obliged to take out certain insurances?
  • To what extent should self-declared self-employed persons be protected from mock constructions (and that they are not actually self-employed)?
  • To what extent should temporary workers and the self-employed enjoy meetings and gifts from the organization (Christmas gifts, etc.)?
  • To what extent should an individual employee not be allowed to make a well-considered choice for his own working hours and should be able to deviate from government regulations / collective agreements etc.?
  • Wouldn't it be better to stop these appraisals and progress interviews?


  • To what extent does the government have a moral duty to employ detainees unjustly detained
  • To what extent do employers have a social duty to hire ex-prisoners?
  • To what extent do employers have a social duty to accept socially weaker offenders? (and so on, but only for persons with disabilities, asylum seekers, etc.)
  • To what extent should the government be representative of society in terms of its composition?

Do you have additional moral dilemmas that may arise in the workplace? We would love to hear from you (@handyquestions). We will complete the list.


Ultimately, choices will of course have to be made by democratic means in labour law, social security law, collective bargaining agreements, policy or through HRM, etc.
The problem is: the more you force people to get the flu shot (for example, because otherwise they are not allowed to do a certain job), the less you can say that people are allowed to choose for themselves (self-determination) or have physical integrity.

This is not without discussion. For an example of a philosopher who equates justice, morally correct action and correct action, see Michael Sandel (Sandel, Michael J., Justice (2012)).

The problem with the use of the general 'what is right action ...' in particular is that in this way a non-moral interpretation can also be chosen in the answer: for example in the sense of the law, or in the sense of what yields the most economically, or in the sense of what is most efficient or in the sense of what a religion or ideology prescribes.

One could also ask the question if "is it a good idea (if ...)". But this line of questioning also has the problem that those involved may only approach the subject from the point of view of efficiency or effectiveness. Other values that may not make it a good idea (equality, freedom, etc.) are thereby forgotten.

For a good understanding of the question and your answer, some demarcation is not unimportant. With 'morally correct' or 'just' you indicate the assessment framework or assessment framework of your question. You can read more about this in this contribution. Your final judgement will then largely be determined by what you understand by 'morally correct'. Earlier, for example, we drew up a questionnaire with moral dilemmas about our constitutional state. The question here was always to what extent something or nothing would fit in a constitutional state. You then get a different answer than if you were to ask the question whether it would be just or morally correct.