Q: When dealing with an ethical dilemma in my organization, should I gain input from others first?
A: I would highly suggest gaining additional insight from a variety of organizational stakeholders before making any ethical decision. My father gave me excellent advice years ago: You must seek and consider all sides of an argument in order to make a well-informed decision. In following this advice, there are several items I recommend being cognizant of when seeking information from others.
First, identify whether the information you are receiving is based in fact or simply an individual’s opinion. Factual information can be supported by evidence. Opinions are subjective beliefs based on an individual’s perspective. When making an ethical decision for your organization, you should consistently seek factual information that will accurately guide and support your judgment.
Second, ensure you are actively and effectively listening to what other stakeholders have to say rather than hearing mere fragments of information that bolster your perspective, also known as confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. Active listening requires individuals to check for clarity throughout the conversation to ensure mutual understanding. Effective listening necessitates communication be heard completely to properly interpret messaging; this involves giving high attention to the speaker.
Third, determine whether you are acquiring information from only like-minded individuals who share your values and opinions. Expand your professional social network by reaching out to internal and external peers whom you know have a differing viewpoint, as they may provide a valuable perspective.
Basing your ethical decision on facts gained from effectively listening and understanding a variety of peer messages similar and dissimilar to your own will ensure you develop a clear, compelling ethical determination for your organization and the stakeholders it serves.
Daly is the director of consulting and programming at the Center for Ethical Organizations at the University of St. Thomas.