It’s an interesting phenomenon how quickly we delight in the moral victories of people we’ve never met. We’ve all seen those stories that spread across the internet and though our social media feeds about the “unlikely heroes” who are faced with ethical issues and, despite their own personal circumstances, return a found wallet or stand up for an underdog simply because it was the right thing to do. With so much bad news that often leads the headlines, it’s always a welcomed and refreshing reassurance in humanity.
While not necessarily as outwardly heroic or newsworthy, we’re all faced with our own ethical issues every day. From the workplace to our personal lives, for most of us the right decision feels more or less automatic. However there are times when ethical dilemmas are more abstract and the right course of action is less apparent.
The next time you find yourself facing ethical issues of your own, arriving at the right answer may be as simple as asking yourself a few important questions.
Am I breaking any laws?
This is perhaps the most obvious question on this list, and often one of the easiest ethical issues to address, From state and federal laws to individual company policies, if a solution to a problem involves knowingly breaking established laws and regulations, then it’s probably not actually a real solution.
Who are the stakeholders?
It’s important to consider who is going to feel the effects – both positive and negative – of a particular course of action. And remember, ethical decision making should not only take key stakeholders into consideration, but also any possible ancillary stakeholders.
What information am I missing?
An uninformed decision can be dangerous. In order to make ethical decisions, it’s imperative to have all the necessary information. And while there will be times when you just simply “didn’t know what you didn’t know,” putting in the due diligence to be as informed as possible will help make it a rare occurrence.
What are the short- and long-term consequences?
What seems like an obvious choice in the short-run doesn’t always mean it’s the right course of action in the long-run. Ethical issues must be thought through to the end. Working toward a long-term, sustainable outcome will always outweigh a fleeting moment of success.
Is my decision in line with my company’s core values? My personal core values?
Core values are personal, ethical, and ideological guidelines that set the standard for how you run your company and how you live your life. Even when it hurts, at the end of the day making decisions that align with your core values will go a long way toward helping you sleep at night.
What would my mom think about this decision?
Obviously, this one is somewhat in jest, but it does highlight a valid point – would you be ashamed of your decision if it disappointed the people in your life who mean the most to you?
What other questions do you ask yourself when confronted with ethical issues? How do you ensure you always stay true to your core values? Let us know in the comments section below.