Ethical Dilemmas in Insurance

Most insurance people will face an ethical dilemma or two at some point in their career. Here are typical situations where they can happen in insurance …

  • When making claims settlements
  • When implementing pricing strategies
  • In designing policy wordings
  • When raising concerns about work practices
  • In putting customers’ interests first

Some may be simple to handle, but others can be complex. Knowing how to handle a tricky ethical dilemma could end up defining that person’s career. Some basic skills and a bit of practice, especially in training programmes, can make the world of difference.


Be Prepared

Many people underestimate just how common ethical dilemmas in insurance are. As a result, they're tempted to ‘learn as they go along’ when next faced with one. That might work on the odd occasion, but it's a gamble, for you personally and for your firm. Here are three reasons why some preparation is worthwhile.

Firstly, the ethical dimension of such dilemmas means that questions about values, loyalties, responsibilities and principles will always be present. These can be wrapped round with a lot of emotion and personal interests. That can turn them into something of a minefield, the quid pro quo of which is that being prepared for how to tackle them helps avoid them blowing up in front of you.

Secondly, ethical dilemmas come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They can involve only one or two people, or whole departments, or be concerned with very local issues or something of strategic importance to the firm. Some can be dealt with quickly, while others could trigger serious disciplinary or regulatory investigations. The shape and size of the dilemma that’s just landed on your desk may not be obvious from the outset. It makes sense to approach them all with some degree of thought and care.

And thirdly, people will be watching, for ethical dilemmas are often about issues that people find interesting. Staff will be looking on, wondering what the repercussions might be. Directors will be keeping an eye on developments in case something unpleasant emerges and awkward questions are put to them about it.

Being prepared with the knowledge and skills to tackle ethical dilemmas with confidence is a good move for anyone with leadership responsibilities. 


One Aspect of Ethical Dilemmas not to be Forgotten

Researchers have found that ethical dilemmas are likely to elicit more emotion than other types of decisions. This happens on two levels. Firstly, at the level of the situation itself: they’re often unique and based around interpersonal relationships. The people involved in them feel exposed, with their judgement being scrutinised and perhaps even their professional identities questioned. All this increases their emotional element.

The second level involves the person confronted with the ethical dilemma and being asked to resolve it. The situation can cause them to worry and become anxiety, for reasons to do with both past experiences and future expectations. This in turn will influence their ability to reach a good decision. 

Read more about the emotional side of ethical dilemmas here... A Vital Step to being Good at Ethical Dilemmas


ethical dilemmas


Ethical Dilemmas are Ideal for Training Programmes  

In this article, I look at three reasons why ethical dilemmas are ideal training material...

  • they involve practical situations (just the thing that adult learners respond well to);
  • they allow employees to use their experience to resolve them (so building engagement);
  • they can be tailored to the firm’s particular business needs.

And then I go on to identify seven ways in which this can support a firm's objectives: 

It's Good to Talk - Using Ethical Dilemmas as part of your Training Programme


I've written a huge number of ethical dilemmas, all of them tailored specifically to the needs of insurance people. Some have been simple stories, while others have involved complex interactions and developments within an ongoing situation.  

These have been used in online ethics courses for both the Chartered Insurance Institute and the Personal Finance Society. 

A key part of these dilemmas is a naturalist narrative style that centres the story around characters and situations. This makes them easy to engage with, and focussed on individuals and their actions makes them resonate with people's experiences.

Please get in touch to discuss how I can support your learning and development programme.  

Learning Resource 

Jump to other 'Ethical Skills' themes...

Search across all articles for what interests you...