Ethical Dilemmas in Start-Up Land

Jenn Sydeski
2 min readDec 26, 2019


Oh boy- to do the thing or not do the thing, that is the dilemma.

So, one aspect of ethics in business is identifying and addressing ethical dilemmas.

Identifying Ethical Dilemmas (very MVP)

The first part of that is tricky in that you can evaluate nearly every decision:
Do I go to work today?
Do I email this person first or that person?
Do I bake muffins for everyone and put them in the break room?

For right now, I’m relying on my team to call out when we have a question that we need to throw our ethics plan at. This isn’t great. I have a super good team and advisers, but, frankly, beyond “something feels off,” I haven’t figured this bit out yet. I’ll keep you updated as we progress here.

That said, an open discourse on dilemmas and soliciting feedback from others is more than most workplaces do, so I’m calling this our MVP process with the understanding that something more robust has to be out there.

Addressing Ethical Dilemmas

There is a ton available to learn about this, but a place to start is John Hooker’s public content, and there isn’t just one way to do this, but for our purposes, we start with our question/dilemma, talk through different presentations of the same issue, consider our decision options, and put each through a series of tests that go a little like this:
Generalizability — If everyone did this, what would that look like?
Utility Maximization — What offers the best net outcome for everyone?
Autonomy — Does this infringe on others’ choices?
Virtue — Does this hang together with our values?

Here is the general tool I have to use the ideas found throughout this series.


~This is part of a Start-Up Tech Ethics series.~

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Jenn Sydeski

CEO of Connect Wolf, professor, tinkerer, operations nerd, recovering scientist, and mama.