All decisions in an organisation have an ethical implication–that is, there are always ethical choices
People may need need help to recognise these implications and then how to make the right decision.
There’s single “best” way to do this. The starting point is to refer to company codes and compliance rules. But the final choice comes down to judgement and taking personal responsibility for it.
Organisations need a clear decision framework which everyone can adapt to their own purposes. What would such a framework look like? Here are some to consider:
This comprehensive approach helps reveal differences between the OUTCOMES and the CONSEQUENCES of a decision. While they sound identical, they’re actually distinct:
Outcomes: the immediate results of a decision and therefore short term.
Consequences: the overall impact of a decision and include longer term implications
In every situation there’s also a choice of whether to make the decision process open and transparent or keep it hidden from prying eyes. Here’s what might have happened had VW used this approach over its decision to cheat on its vehicle emissions. It is not an insider’s analysis!
CISCO offers its many thousands of employees a simple decision tree to help arrive at the right ethical choice:
BAE FOUR STAGE DECISION PROCESS
This company has evolved a simple four step approach to making ethical decisions:
BAE expects all its employees to understand and use this simple guide. A vital part of this process is ensuring people discuss what decision is about to be made.
Blanchard and Peale Approach
Authors of The Power of Ethical Management suggest three simple questions when faced with an ethical dilemma:
1 Is it legal
will you be violating any criminal or civil laws, or company policies by making this decision?
2 Is it balanced
is it fair to all parties concerned in both the short and long term; is this a win-win situation for those directly and indirectly involved?
3 Is it right?
how does it make you feel about yourself; are your proud of yourself for making this decision, would you like others to know the decision you made?
Pinnell & Eagan Approach
Before taking action ask:
ONLY DO IT IF…APPROACH
- The decision won’t become habit forming
- It’s legal
- It’s safe
- It’s the right thing to do
- It’s balanced and fair
- It it will stand up to close public scrutiny
- You could your defend your actions if something terrible were to happen If it isn’t, don’t do it.
- It will make you feel bad about yourself
- It will lead to the greatest good for the greatest number
- You would not do this in front of your mother.
TWELVE POINTED QUESTIONS
1. Have you defined the problem accurately?
2. How would you define the problem if you stood on the other side of the fence?
3. How did this situation occur in the first place?
4. To whom and to what do you give your loyalty as a person and as a member of the organization?
5. What is your intention in making this decision?
6. How does this intention compare with the probable results?
7. Whom could your decision injure?
8. Can you discuss the problem with the affected parties before you make your decision?
9. Are you confident that your position will be as valid over a long period of time as it seems now?
10. Could you disclose without qualm your decision or action to your boss, the head of your organization, your colleagues, your family, the person you most admire, or society as a whole?
11. What is the symbolic potential of your action if understood? If misunderstood?
12. Are there circumstances when you would allow exceptions to your stand? What are they?
These 12 questions for examining the ethics of a decision were adapted from the steps formulated by Harvard Business School Professor Laura Nash in her Harvard Business Review article, “Ethics without the Sermon” (1981)
ROGER STEARE APPROACH Approach
He offers a simple mnemonic to help employees ask the R-I-G-H-T questions:
- What are the Rules?
- Are we acting with Integrity?
- Who is this Good for?
- Who could we Harm?
- What’s the Truth?
The best ethical guide is even simpler:
Put yourself into the shoes of others and think through the consequences of your choices.
1) Framework for ethical decision making. PWC
2) A Framework for Thinking Ethically, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
3) R.Steare, Ethicability 2009, www.ethicability.org