What do you do when you encounter unethical behavior in your workplace?
Ethics expert and Giving Voice to Values author, Mary Gentile, offers these suggestions in a Harvard Business Review* article:
*Treat the Conflict as a Business Matter. Craft a carefully prepared, persuasive business argument – supported by facts. This is much better than giving a little self-righteous speech.
*Recognize this is Part of Your Job. Ethics is not an “optional add-on” to your job responsibilities. It is part of your job and speaking up is not an option – it’s your job.
*Challenge Rationalizations. As humans, we are all subject to rationalizing. If you notice a colleague doing this then you are actually providing a service to point this out. Rationalizations can be hard to notice when you are in the thick of a problem – especially when self-interest is involved.
*Expose Faulty Either/Or Thinking. Often times because time pressure is involved, people only see two choices in an ethical matter. You can be helpful by encouraging others to slow down the process and brainstorm other alternatives – or suggest something yourself.
*Make Long-Term Risks Concrete. Very often decision makers only consider short-term consequences, when the long-term risks can be significant. Once again, you can provide a service by slowing the process down and encouraging colleagues to think further out.
Very often, most reasonable people can notice that something going on in their organization is not right – it is unethical. When we notice this, it is part of our job to figure out how to speak up and say something. Take your time, as you would with any business issue, and figure out the right way to intervene and make a difference. It is in the best interest of your organization and all involved to do so. Speak up!
*Gentile, M. “Keeping Your Colleagues Honest,” Harvard Business Review, March 2010, pp. 114 – 117.