Ethical practice - Lesson 1: your reflections

Welcome to the online community learning space for the lesson: Getting started with ethical practice. Use this forum to discuss the community reflective activity in the lesson. Read the contributions of others, ‘liking’ those you find helpful and add your unique reflections to the conversation by replying to this post. Click here to return to the lesson page at any time.

Community reflective activity:
In your experience what factors create pressure that may compromise ethical behaviour? What is your best piece of advice to others about how to resist compromising your ethics?  

  • Firstly thanks to the CIPD for creating this content, a great benefit as a long(ish) time member and will be very valuable. I was reflecting on the ethics being compromised and reminded of one definition of 'integrity' being 'doing the right thing even if no one is watching or would know otherwise'. For me, ethical practice requires courage and diplomacy to aim to influence others to do the right thing and not be swayed by what may be 'easy' or 'fastest'.
  • Hi all!

    It's really valuable to have 'Ethical Practice' being given prominence in the behaviours section of the new Profession Map. Ethical considerations are something that are vital to anyone working in the HR & L&D functions (and also, in my opinion, to anyone within an organisation). It is imperative that we, as people practitioners, role-model ethical practice in everything we do. Having the new Profession Map to guide us, along with this new course, is fantastic! Thank you to the learning team at CIPD for putting it all together.

    I last studied Business Ethics as an element of my HR degree around 20 years ago and it is an area that I find absolutely fascinating, it's great (and certainly time!) to have a refresher! 

    The resources in this section have really got me thinking about scenarios I've encountered in different organisations during my career and I can think of more than a handful of examples of practices I’ve observed that were totally unethical! I'm sure that anyone with 30+ years' of working experience can say the same!

    In my experience, there are numerous factors that have the potential to create pressure that may compromise ethical behaviour. Some examples of factors based on things I’ve seen over the years are:

    • Targets, reward structures and incentives.

    • Culture – prioritising individual performance over team/organisational performance etc.

    • Funding streams.

    • Workload pressure, peer pressure or management pressure.

    • Resource levels.

    • Accountability vs blame culture.

    • Relationships.

    • Transparency (or lack of!).

    • Conflicting priorities and/or working in silos.

    • Psychological safety.

    • Processes/reporting procedures/employee voice.

    The above is not an exhaustive list, but I think it highlights the vastness of the potential for compromise of ethical behaviour within organisations. For me, the key questions I ask myself when taking any course of action are:

    Is it legal?

    Is it right?

    Is it fair?

    Am I doing what's best for customers, for colleagues and for the organisation?

    What might the implications of my actions/decisions be?

    I'm really looking forward to going through the rest of the content on this course and to seeing things from different perspectives and through different lenses, here to share and learn!

  • In reply to Joanna:

    Thanks Joanna for sharing your extensive knowledge.
  • In your view/expereince, when do ethical considerations get squeezed? For instance juggling the needs of individuals and the needs of the organisation/shareholders/owners?
  • In reply to Obaid:

    Thank you, Obaid. I think it’s so nice that we get to share our experience with each other. I’d love to know what your reflections are with regard to the ‘Ethical Practice’ behaviour and Lesson 1.

    From your own work experience, what factors have you seen that create pressure that could potentially compromise ethical behaviour?

    Do you have any advice for others on how to resist compromising ethics?

    How do you determine whether something is ethical?

    I’d love to know your thoughts.
  • In reply to Janet:

    Hi Janet,

    I wasn't sure if you were asking Obaid or asking generally, decided to offer my thoughts anyway! :)

    I would absolutely agree with you that juggling individual and stakeholder needs and expectations can squeeze ethics somewhat. Sometimes this can put us under pressure to make a choice between what we would ideally, or ethically, like to do and what we are actually being asked (or told!) to do.

    We always have a choice, albeit sometimes a very difficult choice! As Emma said in the first post on this forum, our choices are, ultimately, a matter of integrity.

    In my original post on this thread I identified some factors that, from my experience, have the potential to compromise ethics in an organisation. The factors I identified can be broadly broken into the following categories:

    - Financial.
    - People, culture and relationships.
    - Processes.

    When do you think ethical considerations get squeezed the most? I'd love to know your thoughts.
  • In reply to Joanna:

    According to my understanding ethical is a system of moral principles. They affect how we make our decisions and lead our lives. Most of us often behave irrationally and follow our gut instinct even when our mind suggests a different course of action.
    To answer your first question:
    1: From your own work experience, what factors have you seen that create pressure that could potentially compromise ethical behaviour?
    According to my thoughts, our organisation is under-resourced around 35% is the biggest factor. Other reason is due to the time-pressures faced by employees to complete and deliver the task which act towards unethically in workplace.

    2:Do you have any advice for others on how to resist compromising ethics?
    Few points I have listed below can resist in compromising ethica are:
    • Written standards of ethical workplace conduct.
    • Training on the standards.
    • Organisation resources that provide advice about ethics and compliance issues.
    • Performance evaluations of ethical conduct.
    • Systems to discipline violators
    • Freedom to question management without any fear.
  • Hello, i'm Michelle, part of the Learning Community Team at CIPD Learning along with my colleagues Ben Zimpel and Mark Wilson (3 February 2020)

    It is so great to see so many of you engaging with the learning content and already having great conversations, sharing reflections and insights. I love learning by thinking and working out loud with others to shape my own practice and thinking.

    Enjoy your learning Journey!

  • In reply to Emma:

    I took exactly the same away from it. It's doubly hard if the person you are challenging is more senior in the organisation.
  • In reply to Obaid:

    I really like your point with regard to the organisation providing training, resources and guidance on ethical and compliance issues, Obaid. It is so important that everyone understands what is expected and what would be deemed ethical or unethical in the particular context.

    Choices are generally guided by our own individual moral compass and, as a result, whether or not the choice is ethical can be quite subjective - my ethical standards will likely differ considerably from someone else’s.

    I love how you’ve identified the importance of there being clarity in an organisation, embedding clear meaning through policies, processes, HR and L&D.

    I also like the way that you have referred to the importance of there being psychological safety within an organisation, ensuring a culture, and channels, that allows people to safely speak up when they experience something that they feel is unethical. You might be interested in taking a look the resources below that look at the idea of ‘psychological safety’, I found them really interesting:



  • In reply to Yvonne:

    Absolutely agree with you, Yvonne. It can be so difficult to challenge people who are senior/have longer service within an organisation. It takes real courage to challenge and, sometimes, challenging ‘the way we do things around here’ can become a problem for the person who has raised an issue.

    Have you ever been in that position? If so, how did you overcome the challenge?

  • In reply to Yvonne:

    I have just joined a new organisation and the sentence I have heard the most is "that's not how we do it" I have had to sit with more senior managers and explain that things have changed and you need to start doing it, creating a structure that is fair and equal to everyone.
  • Hi All,
    I have experienced pressures through the structure of the organisation being owned by an overseas company, very sales/target focused with a very different culture. Sometimes decisions to improve and drive sales may cross the ethical border where I face the difficult job of influencing a large span of very senior people - any advice on you would tackle this is much appreciated :)
  • In reply to Naomi:

    This is great Naomi. How did you approach senior management with your thoughts and ideas... great to get some tips from you that others could use to challenge scenarios alike this.
  • In reply to Joanna:

    great share Joanna, I might share these in the professional courage communities too!