Ethical Dilemmas You Could Encounter While Working in Foreign Countries

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For many, ethical dilemmas encountered while working abroad occur when their cultural expectations collide with those of the host country. Inevitably, these issues create a sense of self-doubt and loss of faith in the company you are working with. The best way to deal with such cases is to try to respect and understand the host’s culture, while preserving your own ethical point of view. Listed are the most common ethical dilemmas encountered while working on foreign grounds.

Human Rights

The country that you have been transferred to may not adhere to common human rights laws. Therefore, the ethical dilemma is whether your new working condition supports any current abusive habits, or whether it catalyzes the need to respect basic human rights. The ethical action is to withdraw from foreign markets if you find that you are supporting a team that practices open discrimination, oppresses its workers or follows a regime that ignores basic freedoms. However, if your presence allows for moderation in human rights abuses, you may actively participate to help improve deteriorating conditions.


Most foreign countries do not have legislation that prohibits environmental pollution. In such countries, companies are free to discharge pollutants into their surrounding with minimal repercussions. Do not limit your organization’s environmental footprint within requirements of local laws. Operate your company to ensure that it does not result into any harmful effects on the environment. Moreover, you may apply similar practices to your company’s new location if the staff members already have the knowledge to operate within appropriate environmental regulations.

Working Conditions

You may also face ethical dilemmas while working abroad due to practices of your own company. Best case scenario is when you are sent to oversee production in a foreign country only to encounter living and working conditions that fall below the usual expectations. Furthermore, your company may be violating labor laws by outsourcing work to different companies in foreign countries. Ensure that the work legislations of your company do not leave you open to interaction with unethical companies. Make a habit of knowing more about the country you are relocating to, to avoid unnecessary surprises.

Daily Considerations

You may also encounter daily concerns based on safety and health issues while working abroad. Simple acts in an underdeveloped, foreign country, such as, drinking water straight from the faucet, or using the washroom can lead to unforeseen ethical challenges. Most developing countries have poorly built sewage systems, which may cause the sewage to leak into domestic water supplies. Educate yourself on common health and safety issues before visiting a foreign country. Furthermore, you may suffer from culture shock as a result of daily cultural norms, such as, open female discrimination by the local communities. In this case, try to respect the foreign culture, while finding a balance between their beliefs and what you believe to be right.

It makes sense to expand internationally, especially if markets in foreign countries promise a higher profit margin. As you prepare for expansion or relocation, learn to address any legal and ethical issues that could hinder your company’s success.