At What Point do Ethics Matter?
Anyone reading the above question can be forgiven if it causes a raised eyebrow as I will readily admit it is a trick question. Ethical behavior matters at every phase of human behavior, and I think many people fail to recognize this. Because of the modern narrative that comes at us through multiple sources such as books, the internet, television and radio, and even ordinary everyday conversation, one easily can be misled into believing ethics only applies in certain circumstances.
A strong ethical foundation is the natural result of making decisions that come from and reinforce correct aka right behavior. In his book, Manuscript Found in Accra, Paulo Coelho makes the case that success is the result of work that is pursued for its own sake. If you love the work you do, success will be the fruit. He reminds the reader that if you pursue success you will rarely find it because success is not an end; it is a consequence. He also goes on to say that those who encounter difficulty in the execution of the work they love they fall back on discipline to get them through the difficulties.
This has a direct bearing on the subject of ethics. I have written in earlier blogs that ethics is not only a discipline, but it also requires discipline to behave in an ethical manner. What matters is making the correct decision because the work you do demands it and not because it will make you look good to your boss or your co-workers. This is the crux of the issue in that most ethical decisions come to people when no one is watching. Often the only one who knows an ethical decision confronts them is the person doing the work. If you are doing the work first and foremost because it is the work you want to do and love doing, then making the right decision is easy because you do not want to diminish either yourself or the work.
The test of one’s character is in doing the right thing when you are doing the work because you must. The temptation to take a shortcut when no one is looking comes at one more frequently when the person doing the work dislikes the work he does. The desire to get past the unpleasant tasks as quickly as possible is the reason for most decisions that lead to errors and mistakes. In my talks to groups I sometimes focus on this very point and I tell the audience that when they as individuals find themselves in this situation they should deliberately do more than is expected; determine what is expected and then exceed it. I tell them if they dig down and exceed expectations on work that is unpleasant they will learn they have acquired a discipline that makes them exponentially more effective at other work.
Ethics in the Workplace – can you afford to ignore it? CDC Integrated Services has a different approach. Learn more about this approach in our introduction to Ethics in The Workplace training as further described here:
Food for thought: Where right and wrong interconnect, a person must act so that the principle of his action could be the principle on which everyone else acts in similar situations…(derived from Emmanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative).
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