Four Tools for Creating an Ethical Organization (group, program, family etc…)
I believe that most people want to do the right thing most of the time—so why is it that they so often don’t, and what can we do about it? Whether it is in the place we work, a program we have created, or even our family, what supports the people involved in the best possible way?
When people are in environments where speaking up comes with consequences, they are under pressure to achieve unrealistic goals, ethics are either not talked about or only given lip service, and the leader is seen as not walking the walk, they are likely to make bad choices—small or large.
Drawing from an article in the Harvard Business Review by Ron Carucci, “Why Ethical People Make Unethical Choices,” the following offers four straightforward ways to create more health in any group you lead or are a part of.
Create an Environment Where People Can Speak Up: When people are able to voice their concerns, they both help the group grow and create an opportunity for problems to be solved. Additionally, when people are able to speak up about problems that they see, they are less likely to use unethical means to solve those problems. This type of environment is created less by what one says and more by the way one responds when feedback has been given.
Create Clear and Achievable Goals as Well as the Means to Meet Them: Performance goals that are unrealistic—whether because of the goals themselves or because there are not the means to meet them—encourage unethical behavior. People are stuck between a rock and a hard place: not meeting the goal or cutting corners to get it done. This is amplified by the amount of pressure that is put on people to achieve the unrealistic goals. Unrealistic goals over an extended period of time not only encourage unethical behavior but also decrease the motivation of the people who are involved.
Talk About Ethics: If you want ethics to be important, then make the conversation about them central to what it is that you are doing. Make it clear what the ethical standards are for your group, and be an example of what those behaviors look like in action. This is further supported by including ethical considerations in each aspect of what is being done.
Set a Positive Example: Especially if you are the leader of the group, it is important to act in a way that conveys ethical integrity. This takes into consideration that many people have been disappointed by leaders in the past and will likely be expecting you to do the same. Take extra time to not only walk the walk but to help clear up any misunderstandings that might be generated so that you may help to build a trusting environment.