Ethical Leadership - The experience of JCU's 3rd IBD cohort

Chapter 7 - Ethical Decision Making and Behavior

Understanding how we make and follow through on ethical decisions is the first step to making better choices; taking a systematic approach is the second.

4 Components of Moral Action:

·        Moral Sensitivity: recognizing  the presence of an ethical issue

·        We cannot solve a problem we do not know exists

                                                               i.      Requires empathy and perspective skills

·        Moral Judgment/Reasoning: Select a course of action from the options generated from Moral Sensitivity

·        3 levels: pre-conventional, conventional, post-conventional. Higher level = higher sophistication.

                                                               i.      When education stops, moral development stops

                                                             ii.      The broader the perspective the better

                                                           iii.      Contextual variables play a role in shaping ethical behavior

·        Moral Motivation: After concluding on the best course of action, decision makers must be motivated to follow through on their choices.

·        Moral values often conflict with other significant values

·        Rewards play an important part in ethical follow through (raises).

·        Emotions (both positive and negative) will have a corresonding effect on moral motivation.

                                                               i.      Happiness and joy = positive

                                                             ii.      Pessimism and complacency = negative

·        Seek out and create ethically rewarding environments to increase your moral motivation and the motivation of others.

·        Moral Character: Executing the plan takes character because of the limitless obstacles being faced while trying to achieve goals/plan.

·        Having a strong will and persistence significantly helps bolster moral motivation and follow through.

·        Competence is also a necessity to see an ethical plan followed through to completion

Kidder’s Ethical Checkpoints:

1.      Recognize that there is a problem.

a.       Critical because it forces us to acknowledge there IS a problem that exists

2.      Determine the Actor: Once the problem is realized, we then need to decide who is responsible for addressing the problem.

3.      Gather Relevant Facts: Adequate, accurate, and current information is important for making effective decisions of all kinds, including ethical ones.  Details make a difference!

4.      Test for right versus wrong issues: A choice is generally a poor one if it gives you a negative, gut-level reaction (stench test haha!). Example: if your decision made front page news on “tomorrow’s” paper would it make you uncomfortable?

5.      Test for right versus right issues: Many ethical dilemmas pit two core values against each others. We must determine where two “good” or “right” values are in conflict with one another in this situation.

a.       For example:

                                                               i.       telling the truth vs loyalty to your company (most common)

                                                             ii.      short term benefits with long term consequences.

6.      Apply Ethical Standards and Perspectives: Apply the ethical principal that is most relevant and useful to this specific issue.

7.      Look for a third way: Sometimes irreconcilable values can be resolved through compromise or the development of a creative solution. Negotiators often see a “third way” to bring competing factions together.

8.      Make the Decision: Step up and make the decision. This is a given but by this point in the process we are mentally exhausted and may not follow through, get caught up in the act of analysis, or lack the necessary courage to come to a decision.

9.      Revisit and Reflect on the Decision: Learn from your choices. Once you’ve moved on to other issues, stop and reflect. What lessons have we learned.  What ethical issues did it raise?

Case Study 7.1 – The Terminal Patient

a.       When handling patients with life-threatening conditions, doctors have a dilemma of lying to protect their ego or “softening” to keep patients inspired to survive

b.      Imagine that surgery must be performed on a patient, and the surgery may be fatal; how would you respond to the patient and family if he/she asks “Will I make it?”


Nash’s 12 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 loyalties as a person or group and as a member of the organization?

5.      What is your intention in making this decision?

6.      How does this intention compare with the likely results?

7.      Whom could your decision or action injure?

8.      Can you engage the affected parties in a discussion of the problem 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, your CEO, the board of directors, your family, or society as a whole?

11.  What is the symbolic potential of your action if understand? What do we want to represent?

12.  Under what conditions would you allow exceptions to your stand?

The Moral Reasoning Process:

Situation Definition:

·        Description of facts

·        Identification of principals and values

·        Statement of ethical  issue or question


·        Weighting of competing principals and values

·        Consideration of external factors

·        Examination of duties to various parties

·        Discussion of applicable ethical theories


·        Rendering of moral agent’s decision

·        Defense of that decision based on moral theory


Case Study Method:

This is outlined as being identical to everything we learned in analytical business modeling. In the interest of everyone’s time I will not produce a 5 page document on the Ellot way. This concludes chapter 7.


Final Points:

·        Ethical behavior is the product of moral sensitivity, judgment, motivation, and character.

·        Increase your sensitivity to potential ethical issues through perspective taking and using moral terminology.

·        Improve your ability to make moral judgments by creating an ethical environment that provides ethical role models and procedures.

·        Foster moral motivation

·        Get your facts straight

·        Use feelings a way to measure ethical decisions

·        Don’t expect perfection

·        Case Study 7.2 – Ethical Scenarios for Analysis

o       Clothing the Camp Counselors

§         As a camp counselor for underprivileged kids, you and other counselors oversee the distribution of clothes and shoes to the children

§         the other counselors take stuff for themselves before passing out clothes to kids, claiming it as a “benefit” to the job

·        Would you take any shoes/clothing for yourself?

o       School Bus Advertising

§         As a way to raise funds for a schooling district, you investigate placing full length ads on the side of school buses

§         Various groups have criticized advertisements for children, even going for by eliminating products of such advertisements in schools (i.e. sugary snacks and fast food)

·        The school board cannot consider this issue without your proposal; would you propose the school bus ads?

o       Penalizing Timely Payments

§         Company officials instruct you, as manager, to begin penalizing credit card payments that arrive right before the due date

§         colleagues know their jobs are in peril if they don’t begin this practice, although profits have gone down due to competition from other credit card companies

·        Will you institute this new policy at the processing center?

o       Faulty Sales Contract

§         As you are waiting to sign a contract with a large high-tech firm to distribute your software, the firm’s representative speaks about features of your projective that will be utilized

§         However, these features do not exist; whether it was due to an honest mistake or deliberate deception is unknown

·        Would you go ahead with the signing of the contact?