July 2, 2014 Leave a comment
By Linda Fisher Thornton
Workplace issues are complex and opinions vary about the right thing to do in challenging situations. This complexity and uncertainty combine to create a “murky uncertainty” that may keep people from giving us their best, most ethical performance.
Leaders may intend to create an ethical culture, but may still have difficulty getting past the murky uncertainty about what ethics means. To move beyond the uncertainty, we need to take the time to talk about ethical behavior and how we will make ethical decisions. Taking these three actions as part of our overall leadership strategy will help us clear up the conversation about ethics:
1. Make It Safe To Talk Openly About Ethics
Some people think that it’s risky to talk openly about the ethical choices we have to make. They are concerned that people will discover what they’re uncertain about. I believe that it is much more risky NOT to talk openly about the ethical decisions we’re making. I would rather have an employee know that I am actively struggling to make an ethical decision in a difficult situation than to have them think that I make decisions without considering the ethical impact.
2. Ask People What Is Unclear
There will always be areas where people are unclear about the most ethical course of action, and what the organization wants them to do. Just ask them. I would guess that in many organizations one of the top issues people are unclear about is how to balance out seemingly competing requests. For example, “use the highest ethics in all we do” and “reach your quarterly targets.” If sales are down, what should we do?? Which one of these goals can be bent a little short term (and please don’t say ethics).
3. Clear It Up With Clear Conversations
What is on your regular meeting agendas? Is it project reports and corporate updates? When we gather people together, we should be talking about our complex challenges and how to make ethical choices in difficult situations.
When we make it safe to talk about our difficult challenges and how we will handle them ethically, we help people move beyond murky uncertainty.
Clear Conversations Lead to Clear Ethics
By having clear conversations about ethics. we empower people to make ethical choices when we’re not around. We prepare them for the real world challenges they’ll have to handle. We build their confidence that they can trust us to help them, and that we will uphold the highest ethics in all that we do… Now that’s clear!
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