You might assume that every big decision a business makes has gone through an ethics approval process. However, that’s not always the case. When some business leaders are facing the prospect of being able to make quick and easy gains without an ethical foundation, they can be tempted to travel down that route.
Whether you’ve encountered a moral dilemma or want to be known for ethical business decisions, the following steps should help you achieve your goal. Your business reputation might depend on them.
Step 1: Understand Your Ethical Dilemma
If you’re trying to resolve a single ethical problem, start by understanding that dilemma. When you know what you’re facing, why it might be unethical, and the alternatives, a solution often presents itself sooner than you think.
For example, you might be trying to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace, but your only available position has been promised to your business partner’s relative. You might worry about the ethics of nepotism and the workplace diversity you’ll be sacrificing if you allow this hiring decision to go ahead. By diving into the literature on these topics and examining the potential consequences of each available course of action, you will, at the very least, have a strong foundation on which to base your decision.
Step 2: Create a Code of Ethics
A formal code of ethics helps you determine at a glance what is and isn’t off-limits. Put one in place, and you’ll be able to make decisions based on a set of rules everyone has agreed to ahead of time.
You could write the code based on specific situations or keep it general, allowing it to cover a wide range of issues. When the time comes to make a decision that could be seen as unethical, you can scrutinize it based on predetermined criteria.
Step 3: Think of Others
The decisions you make, ethical or unethical, can affect more than you and your immediate business. Indeed, they often impact stakeholders, employees, clients, suppliers, and even people living or working near your enterprise. Keep this in mind when you’re brainstorming possible solutions for a problem – a seemingly ethical answer might not be ideal if it creates issues for others.
Step 4: Consider Rules, Regulations, and Laws
Sometimes, a solution isn’t just unethical but also breaks the law or the regulations governing your industry. A simple example can be waste removal. It could be classed as unethical to discharge waste into a local waterway, even if it would solve your problem. However, this act will probably also break local environmental laws unless a permit has been obtained.
Step 5: Consult Others
You might have the critical job of making the final decision, but you don’t necessarily have to come to a conclusion independently. Consult others who might be impacted by the decisions you make. Talk to experts who can highlight legal issues and speak to trusted advisors and mentors. Their input will be invaluable, helping you see whether you’re making the wrong or right call.
Step 6: Review Past Decision
It’s highly likely that this moral predicament isn’t your first. Think about business decisions you’ve made in the past and their outcomes. By reflecting on the past, you can learn from your mistakes and make better moves.
Ethical decision-making in business won’t always be straightforward, and you might not always please everyone. However, by taking the six steps above, you can improve your chances of fine-tuning your decision-making processes and establishing a reputation for maintaining excellent moral standards.