Let's Talk About Something Sensitive - Ethics (Part 1)

Have you ever scratched your head and wondered what a person or a company thought when they did something? What would cause a person or a company to make a choice that to you seems so wrong or so risky? Do phrases like "When in doubt, get it out!" or "We don't care, just get it there!" sound familiar? What is the impact when we make these decisions, and why do we make them?

Today's discussion is the first in a four-part series on ethics. Our first session is going to be on ethics and specifically, what are ethics. We will follow-on into talking about an ethical framework and finally discussing questions on ethics.

To start with, let's define what the term "ethic" means. Webster defines the word ethic as :

"A set of moral principles: a theory or system of moral values."


Let's break this down even further to understand what it means.

Theory: It can be a system, but more times than not, it is based on concepts that are plausible, ideals, or thoughts. The trouble with theory is that it can be vague and open to interpretation without substantial supporting and/or proven documentation.

System: The interactions and processes used to make something function and move. It implies that something has been designed, implemented with specific inputs and outputs working together to produce a result.

Moral: A gauge of right and wrong. Morals can be based on many different beliefs, experiences, desires, or perspectives.

Values: Standards by which we operate or act. Similar to morals, these can be defined and developed by beliefs, values, and experiences. These also act like the dashboard of our car. When a value is not being challenged, everything is OK. However, when one of our values is challenged, it can cause us to get a warning indicator that something is not wrong.

When you put these together, you can say that ethics are what we (either as a person or a company) define as right and wrong. In our personal and professional lives, we face many ethical discussions. Concepts like lying, falsifying documentation, not sharing information, cheating, stealing, breaking the law, as well as many others, can fall into the realm of ethics.

So, with this, why do so many people, and companies get into trouble for ethical issues? This is a much deeper subject that we will dive into over the next couple of sessions.

As we wrap up session 1, have you ever thought about what your values are and how they impact your personal code of ethics? As an exercise, take a few minutes and write down some of the values you have. Using just a few sentences, define what these values are in your own words and why they are important to you.

Next, do the same thing for your company. Use the same process but define what they mean at your company (use their words if they are defined) and why they are important to the company.

Bring these back to session 2, where we discuss why defining values is so important both personally and professionally.


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