Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Ethical decision-making requires more support

July 2011

A guide detailing ‘ethics in decision-making (EiDM)’ has recommended support for staff so that they feel able to implement company policy and never feel they alone are responsible for tough choices.

The paper, from the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE), has proposed best practice for embedding ethics in decision-making for employees, managers and senior leaders, saying the focus should be extended beyond the final point of decisions. It should analyse the context before decisions are made and the challenges of implementing them.

The IBE advises leaders to take into account employees’ ability or willingness to apply decisions – it regards this as the greatest single practical challenge to ethical decision-making.

Staff should be supported and educated when it comes to ‘doing the right thing’, says the report, and barriers and pressures preventing them from implementing ‘well-reasoned decisions’ should be identified and removed.

The guide says pressure to meet ‘unrealistic’ objectives and deadlines and the perceived need to follow the boss’s orders are among the most frequent anxieties, though issues such as ignorance and a lack of consequences are also factors compromising ethical standards.

The IBE recommends ‘rigorous reasoning’ in decision-making in the first place, however, involving a particular awareness of the compromising and distorting factors within the context in which decisions are being made.

It has set out an ‘ethical test’ for decisions – three questions on transparency, effect and fairness, which should be asked before anything is finalized. They are: Do I mind others knowing what I have decided? Whom does my decision affect or hurt? Would my decision be considered fair by those affected?

The guide says senior management should look at the commercial case for trading ethically and in turn the need to find ways to encourage consistent and rigorous EiDM across the business. It should also examine how a deeper appreciation of the role and challenges around EiDM can help with external stakeholder engagement.

Institute of Business Ethics | Global | Business ethics

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