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Take the Ethical High Road to Success

Ethical dilemmas in the workplace can be more effectively dealt with if managers follow a pathway to ethical success. Knowing how to decide issues from an ethical perspective can enhance one’s well-being not only in their personal lives but in the workplace as well. Here are a few simple steps.

  1. Identify the ethical issues. Ethical issues exist, in a broad sense, whenever one’s actions affect others. In the workplace, a manager’s decisions might affect employees, customers, suppliers, creditors and shareholders. These are the stakeholders of an organization.

  2. Identify alternative courses of action. Every dilemma affords more than just one opportunity. The cautious handling of workplace ethics issues can resolve personal and business dilemmas.

  3. Get in touch with your values and let them guide the way. Our values are our core beliefs that drive actions and decisions. Ethical values emphasize the good versus the bad – honesty over lying, for example.

  4. Use ethical reasoning to decide on a course of action. Ethical reasoning skills are essential to making ethical decisions. A variety of methods exist. I have blogged about them before. Suffice it to say that ethical people are respectful of the rights of others, carefully weigh the harms and benefits of alternative courses of action, and make decisions that are respectful of equity, diversity and inclusiveness.

  5. Check before you decide. Ask yourself: How would I feel if my decision made the front pages of the paper tomorrow? Would I be proud if my children know about it?

Kirk O. Hanson made a presentation at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University back in 2014. Hanson spoke about “The Six Ethical Dilemmas Every Professional Faces.” He talks about ethics, differences with compliance, and the need to build an ethical culture that starts with the individual’s commitment to ethics. Here Is some of what he has to say:

“I don’t have much hope that compliance programs that use the word ethics but never quite manage to address it, or a regulatory structure that is still to a great extent in the hands of corporate interests, can lead companies to act ethically. I believe any hope of influencing corporate behavior resides with hundreds of thousands of individuals, like you and me, making individual ethical choices. To become part of that movement and to chart a personal life of integrity and satisfaction, we must understand our own values, the multiple roles we play in life and the obligations that come with those roles. Above all, we must anticipate the unavoidable ethical dilemmas we face in each of those roles because they will test what our values really are. If we manage to do this, companies and their managers will be held to a higher standard and companies will reflect more on what really are worthwhile products and services.”

Ethical decision-making in the workplace is fraught with danger because stakeholders of an organization may have competing demands. Investors and creditors expect to receive truthful information while top management may believe their own personal wealth and image is tied into putting the best face on the company’s operating and financial results. It takes courage and perseverance for decision-makers to avoid the obstacles that may be in play and follow their conscience. Let your conscience be your guide is as true today as years ago. Of course, we are talking about people who have the propensity to be ethical; otherwise, their conscience may not bother them if unethical actions are taken.

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz on March 15, 2018. Dr. Mintz as a writer and frequent speaker on ethics matters. Sign up for his Newsletter on his website.

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