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Ethical Behavior



The Human Studies Center and London Consult provides audits, planning, training, and intervention services for ethical behavior concerns.  We can help establish ethical codes and codes of conduct for worlds of all sizes.  We are experts in presenting ethical issues to a range of audiences.

We maintain that ethics is a significant part of an organizations mission and vision.  We provide services before, during, and after an ethical conflict, crisis, or review.

Our strategy is based on the following model:

Ethics and Professional Responsibility


The questions, process, and issues explored in this class may be the most important you will ever face in your professional life.  This is not a "walk the walk and talk the talk" or fact regurgitation exercise.  Some may say it is "soft - touchy feelie" graduate Sunday school, or Ivory Tower.  I would argue that what we cover separates technicians from professionals, executives from supervisors, long term survivors from scam artists, and corporate citizens from jailed criminals.  If you want clear cut answers and tend to ignore the questions, you may have great difficulty in this class.


Most people "live lives of quiet desperation" and fail to acknowledge the dictum that the "unexamined life is not worth living."  Most of our ethical belief systems are accepted from or imposed upon us by our family, culture, and organizational affiliations.  We are going to spend the next five week critically examining our own and other's believe systems, decision making processes, and behavior from a range of perspectives.


Ethics in Business and Management is a multidisciplinary analysis of key issues facing modern management professionals.  Ethics is distinct from but related to morality and law.  Etiquette and custom defines proper and improper behavior that can result in social disapproval.  Morality and religion is concerned with right, wrong, and sin.  Law is concerned with legal and illegal behavior defined by legislative or judicial bodies and can result in punishment.  Another defines each of these approaches.  Ethics is the determination of appropriate or inappropriate behavior as defined by an educated conscience and reason.  Ethical questions and issues are not new and can be evaluated through a wealth of resources.


Kohlberg suggested that individuals, and thus organizations make decisions based on a continuum or in stages.  The first stage is obeying rules to avoid punishment followed by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.  The second is seeking approval and avoiding disapproval by others followed by following authorities to avoid censure.  The third stage is respecting individual rights, contracts, and accepted law followed by developing a set of individual principles of conscience and avoiding self-condemnation.  Ideally, the professional functions at stage three.  Ross argues that we have prima facie duties.  These include fidelity, reparation, gratitude, beneficence, non-malfeasance, justice, and self-improvement.  Whatever view you accept is yours and each has costs, benefits, and risks.  The important thing is that you accept the basis of your view as an informed choice.


In dealing with ones own dilemmas or evaluating someone elses, a model of ethical decision making can be of help. 


STAGE ONE - The Issue: The most important stage is recognizing that there is an ethical issue or conflict.  This requires an awareness of the questions and alternative ways of determining what is the appropriate response.  The most difficult conflicts do not involve right or wrong, but balancing competing rights.  Kidder [] suggests some interesting examples:


     Individual versus community

     Justice versus mercy

     Short-term versus long-term

     Truth versus loyalty


The junk bond traders of a few years ago either ignored the ethical issues in their actions or believed that they did not apply to them or thought they would get away with their plans.  The Transamerica problem of a few years ago is a good example.  In both situations, the costs were high.


STAGE TWO - The Problem: You need to define and determine the source of the problem by collecting facts and perspectives from various perspectives.  Look at the stakeholders, affected parties, what do the parties want and what are the alternatives.  Look at the contingencies, the law of unintended consequences, and determined how this situation happened.  Some authors have suggested that Microsoft's antitrust problems were a result of failing to define the problem and looking at various perspectives.  Executives failed to implement the benchmark behaviors of other learners like IBM previous problems and responses.


STAGE THREE - The Analysis: Carefully analyze what is involved and is at stake.  Look at who is involved and may be affected.  Look at what you want and owe yourself and other parties.  Where do the loyalties lie, what rights are involved, and are all the parties being treated fairly and justly?  What are your intentions and how do they relate to possible results.  What are the alternative courses of action - a cost benefit analysis may be short sighted?  If nothing else, look at the crisis management literature.  The C.E.O. of Johnson & Johnson ignored the advice of their lawyers and openly shared their analysis of their product tampering problems.


STAGE FOUR - The Parade of Horribles: What are the projected effects, who can be injured, and with whom can you discuss - the parties before the decision is made, boss, C.E.O., Board, family, society, mentor, colleagues, client, customers, profession, society, congress, a judge, and even yourself?  What is the potential view of my action if my behavior and intention is understood and misunderstood?  My own research into organizations that have experienced significant man-made [or to be politically correct, person-made] crises either ignore the parade or believe that they can get away with their behavior.


STAGE FIVE - Objective Measures: What are the applicable economic, ethical, legal, political and professional factors involved?  How do they balance one another?   Are there established codes of conduct or ethical codes that apply?  Will your position stand the test of time?  Would you will it to be a universal law?  Would you allow another to make the same decision?  Under what conditions would you allow an exception?  Current evidence suggests that Firestone - Ford tire decisions may have failed to use a complete set of objective measures.


STAGE SIX - The Decision: After balancing the factors and narrowing the alternatives to realistic choices, select a course of action.  Allow yourself to consider suspending action because of risk taking, unfeasibility, problem insights, implications, and personal feelings.  Remember that the most obvious or expedient solution is usually the worst.  Is the decision a thoughtful strategic action that fits with your mission and vision or is it a quick fix and sociopathic action?  The Challenger Space Shuttle accident data suggests that all of the decision factors were not communicated and balanced.


STAGE SEVEN - Assess and Evaluate: Implement your behavioral plan. Collect appropriate data.  Evaluate the results.  Was the conflict effectively resolved?


STAGE EIGHT - Learn: Integrate your data and experience into your approach.  Be careful when you find yourself hoping that the issue will go away, will resolve itself, or no one will find out.  Psychologically be weary when you find yourself using denial, procrastination, projection, rationalization, and repression.  You may find yourself in trouble when you can not sleep after you make the decision and its aftermath or you can sleep regardless.  A positive example of Stage Eight Learning is Johnson & Johnson.  After the first Tylenol crisis, they learned from the experience and established a new ethically sensitive plan, which they have successfully applied.


This week, carefully study the course materials, readings, and ethical links to learn as much as you can about various ethical models.  Every response, throughout the class, must be tied to and evaluate the issue[s] from at least two ethical models.  You might even want to use this model in your own decision-making processes.


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