Want an Ethical Culture?


“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

Consider two recent events:

1)     In the United Airlines’ event of a passenger being dragged off the plane, some passengers protested but the crew and passengers didn’t act.

2)     During the recent US congressional hearing about the recent FBI Director’s private conversation with the President, the Director was asked why he didn’t react and say something about what the US President asked him about the Russia investigation. FBI director Comey replied that he was in a state of shock and didn’t know what to say or do.

In emergency response organizations such as police, fire and military, practice improves the individual’s ability to respond effectively to an emergency. In an emergency, one’s thinking ability diminishes and we tend to fall back on instinct and what we have already learned by rote. An emergency tends not to be a time to think out a solution to the situation but a time to act. We, as a species, aren’t good at thinking in an emergency, its either fight or flight, thinking doesn’t tend to fit.

We often see situations in organizational settings, where an individual is confronted by a situation that they hadn’t considered before. We know how that tends to come out, the individual mentally freezes, goes with the group consensus or where the pressure point is and then later regrets their action (or lack of action) and words.

Thus in an organizational or education system, a valuable learning style for changing or enhancing a student’s or employee’s ethical stance is practice.

To increase an individual’s ethical decision making, the ability to act correctly in a real time situation, resist inappropriate group think, resist inappropriate pressure and persuade a group to act correctly, we need to practice.

Knowing how others will think and act helps us find the appropriate decision and strength to act.

Organizational training and education should incorporate practicing ethical decision making in a role playing environment.

There is value in knowing, apriori to a situation, how other people will act.

While discussing ethics is an important component of an organizational/education ethics program, the more effective approach is to practice it in a group setting with dilemmas and each member of the group role-plays their participation. We tend to react better when we have practiced, and in a group environment, when we know how others will react. There is a role playing ethics simulation available to help strengthen the ethical culture within students and employees see here.

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