a fork in the road – ethics and decision making

grey area fork in the road tough decisionsBusiness is full of right and wrong answers. There are no-brainers, and there are decisions which could be pondered for some time. It can be hard to deal with ethics and decision making.

So imagine that you have a large amount of expectations which have been handed down to you to execute against. When it comes time to make the difficult decision, and a grey area, do you struggle? Are you Robert Frost and going to take the road less traveled – or will you be completely objective selecting what is right for the business long term? Based on each person’s unique environmental development I would expect some variation in the standard  answers that you will receive.

Some people view things naturally in black and white. It is either right or wrong, up or down, in or out… there is nothing in between. At the other end of the spectrum the indecisive and the empathy driven individuals will sit the fence and debate that there is a middle ground. At times – it is difficult for me as well. That does not change the fact that there is a decision to make and that based on or reaction(s) perceptions about our abilities can be formed by others. I have found, over time, is that we must determine – without bias – what is the right course of action. Easier said than done – right? I am not saying that this is easy. It is like riding a bike – falling – and then eventually soaring! The responses that I have shared – many times – sound line this, “While I do understand that XYZ happened, and I can see why you may have thought that, there is still a correct way of doing XYZ, and we failed to meet that expectation… what could we have done differently?”

I am sure that you will have your own response. Getting tangled into empathy is a healthy, human reaction. However, justification is different than empathy. Just because we understand the steps that were performed, does not mean that we have to agree with the result of those steps. Here are a couple of questions to ask, or actions to take when in doubt.

  1. Was the outcome a result of misguided directions? If there is not a clearly defined right and wrong – a middle ground will most likely be formed. After finalizing the outcome for the current situation be sure to set boundaries.

2. If you do find yourself in an area that was not clearly defined – ask yourself “Is it legal? Is it balanced (fair)? Is it right?” According to Kenneth Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale, authors of The Power of Ethical Management, these questions can help guide you. (Business Ethics)

  1. Seek counsel from another peer if you feel bias or need another objective point of view. It is healthy to seek counsel from fellow colleagues when making difficult decisions.

  2. “Ignoring negative behaviors allows them to flourish” according to Linda Fisher Thornton in an article titled, “Ethical Grey Areas.” In addition, I have posted about what I call “silent leadership.” This is when by not doing something, or acknowledging something did indeed happen, we are inadvertently supporting or saying “it’s ok.”

  3. If the item at hand is out of your league or you cannot come to a clear consensus as to which direction should be taken – contact your local HR department for additional clarity.

In no way, am I expecting ethics and decision making to be easy for everyone. When we started riding our bike for the first time many of us fell more than others. The key is that we learn, adapt, and keep moving forward. If the issue at hand had no clearly defined right or wrong – be sure to standardize. We have a current situation, and a desired outcome. Now that we have the gap – we need to ensure that it does not happen again.


Referenced Articles

Pederson, Joseph A. “Silent but Deadly -.” The Business Dude. WordPress, 05 June 2013. Web. 01 June 2014.

Thornton, Linda F. “Ethical Grey Areas: Our Choices Define Us.” Leading in Context. Http://leadingincontext.com/, 24 Aug. 2011. Web. 01 June 2014.

Unknown. “Business Ethics.” SmallBusinessNotes.com. SmallBusinessNotes, n.d. Web. 01 June 2014.

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Business, Ethics, ethics and decision making, grey area, Ken Blanchard, Leadership, Linda Fisher Thornton, Norman Vincent Peale, Power of Ethical Management, silent leadership
#Business, #Ethics, #EthicsAndDecisionMaking, #GreyArea, #KenBlanchard, #Leadership, #LindaFisherThornton, #NormanVincentPeale, #PowerOfEthicalManagement, #SilentLeadership

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