Ethical Decision Making Process
When you come across a difficult problem that threatens your company’s integrity or beliefs (or could be illegal), you’ll want to employ these six steps to make an ethical decision.
Step One: Define the Problem
Use PLUS filters to define your problem, and how it might affect one of the PLUS acronyms. Is it illegal, or does it violate your company’s values? Make sure you’ve outlined the full scope of the problem — be honest with yourself about it, even if you’re partially at fault.
Step Two: Seek Out Resources
It can be difficult, if not impossible, to reach an objective solution on your own. To fairly evaluate your problem, you’ll want to seek out all available resources. These resources might be mentors, coworkers, or even friends and family, but they could also be professional guidelines and organizational policies. Make sure you’ve armed yourself with knowledge to understand the extent of the damage.
Step Three: Brainstorm a List of Potential Solutions
When you’re brainstorming a list of potential solutions to your problem, you don’t want to only consider what’s been done before. Stay open to new and different ideas, and urge other people to share their advice. Consider outside resources, including what other companies have done. Ultimately you’ll want a list of at least three to five potential solutions. This way, you avoid feeling like it’s an either/or situation.
Step Four: Evaluate Those Alternatives
Dive into your list of potential solutions, and consider all positive and negative consequences of taking each action. It’s important you consider how likely those consequences are to occur, as well. You’ll again want to refer to resources, guidelines, and standards. For instance, you might decide one solution has only one negative consequence, but that negative consequence has a high likelihood of happening. Another solution has two negative consequences, but both are extremely unlikely. These are important factors to weigh when making your decision.
Step Five: Make Your Decision, and Implement It
At this stage, you’ve got all the information you need to make a fair and ethical decision. If you’ve made the decision alone but need to share it with your team, create a proposal outlining why you chose this route, and what alternatives you considered, so they can understand your steps. Transparency is key. Your team needs to understand you used appropriate and objective measures to find a solution.
Step Six: Evaluate Your Decision
Now that you’ve implemented your solution, decide whether your problem was fixed or not. If there are unforeseen consequences, perhaps you want to consider alternative measures to combat the problem, or refer to outside guidance.
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