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?  

  • Hello,

    In your experience what factors create pressure that may compromise ethical behaviour?

    Finances is definitely a big factor - especially in difficult financial situations, Managers may be pushed to make a different decision than they would have been, in better financial circumstances. I find that relationships can also have a huge bearing especially if an individual feels that their own aspirations will be adversely affected by making a decision that goes against their superiors expectations or wishes.

    What is your best piece of advice to others about how to resist compromising your ethics?

    As other people have said previously more eloquently, it is a case of having integrity and being able to reflect on your own decision making, being able to justify it and wanting to stand by it. It is a small world, and however difficult it may be to disagree with a senior member of the team in one company, eventually this could be beneficial in the long run with a new senior manager or in another company.

    I found the material useful, relevant and appropriate and am looking forward to moving to the next chapter.

  • In reply to Sarah:

    Hi Sarah,

    You've raised an important point with regard to the potential for aspirations being negatively impacted by making decisions/taking actions that are against the expectations or wishes of superiors. I totally agree that this can create pressure that compromises ethical behaviour and, in turn, is a way in which poor ethics can creep into an organisation. This type of situation is something that may begin solely in one team/area of an organisation, but has the potential to spread and become more embedded, having more far reaching implications for the organisation as a whole.

    I found an interesting post online which discusses the concept of 'Groupthink', it really ties in with what you've said and I thought you might be interested: drmarkellis.wordpress.com/.../

    I also agree with your assertion that abiding by your own ethical standards is vital and that it is something that, even if not valued in one organisation, may be highly valued elsewhere - you said it very eloquently!

    I hope you enjoy the 'Groupthink' post - would love to know what you think.
  • This was a very interesting example, unfortunately rather common in some organisations. In my experience peer pressure, disengagement from company values, unrealistic demands lead to unethical behaviour. It's important to keep focused on the bigger picture and do what feels right. Companies need to have efficient ways for people to raise concerns so they pro-actively deal with problems before they escalate, but this depends on culture and dynamic.
  • In my experience having worked for large blue chip companies and small family businesses both in HR and as an employee - I have found that compromises on ethical behaviour can be found in both; in the small family businesses I have heard the words..."we've always done it this way", or even the assumption that by acting unethically in some cases and ethically in others is ok! and I've seen that the core values say one thing but the behaviour says another. The bigger companies tend to be cold (that I've seen), values are there and followed but with no room for discussion, amendment and sometimes without consideration. My biggest struggle i have found is how far you can push "the right way" with some people, particularly those in senior management or even at director level.
    I find myself to be quite passionate about the right thing being done, and frustrated when people don't want to do it, or do it but cut corners... What i can say is this...I do my very best every day to ensure my ethics are never compromised, and I advise and guide others in the same way but ....You can lead a horse to water.....what do you do when they won't drink???
  • This course reminded me that not all unethical practice can feel outwardly 'sinister'; a line manager of mine many years ago insisted performance reviews were a waste of time as he believed he could set objectives & reward fairly through recollection & judgement based on everyday interaction. Whilst this individual was unquestionably honest & generous of spirit, I'm sure many opportunities for individuals in his charge were missed for development, challenge & appropriate reward. Whilst this approach was challenged until various promotions / moves broke up our senior retail management team, it's interesting to recollect this now having completed a CIPD & taken up additional learning around the subject of ethical practice; I'd always considered myself ethical & someone who recognised the overtly 'bad' stuff, I could have pushed harder against the behaviour which took on the appearance or benevolent generosity
  • In reply to Tim:

    Hi Tim,

    I like the point that not all unethical practice is "sinister" - I think this is completely true and goes on in many organisations, being led by people who consider themselves ethical. Especially if it is always been done this way, for example.

    I think when it is not sinister or overtly for a particular outcome it is more difficult to challenge compared to when someone is engineering a situation for their own gain, or own preference.
  • In reply to Joanna:

    HI Joanna,

    Thank you, I did enjoy the post about Groupthink. It is so important to create a culture of being able to confidently challenge ideas/processes/decisions to ensure you have made the correct one. Culture is key in this, but also time. It will be interesting with the benefit of hindsight to see how some decisions made quickly during the Cobid-19 pandemic will turn out to be unethical or unchallenged, in the effort to respond quickly.

    Thank you, Sarah
  • In reply to Michelle Battista:

    If you missed the CIPD ethics webinars you can listen to the recordings that are available on this CIPD webpage... www.cipd.co.uk/.../ethics-work-guide

  • In my experience challenging ethical behaviour and decision making has been a regularly recurring challenge throughout my career. The pressure of unethical behaviour stems from a combination of deeply embedded and long standing cultural patterns alongside the personalities of senior leadership. I have found it so difficult on a personal level to voice my concerns because of the organisational background I have stepped into. The pace with which organisations often move is an added pressure, decisions must be made and action taken quickly to avoid impact on the ever present 'p' word (Profit).

    My personal toolkit for this one has developed over the years as my confidence levels have increased. Creating time and space for a situation to be properly considered by quickly highlighting the potential financial outcomes of rushing into something without due care. Ultimately, I am there to give guidance and advice (often focused on the legalities) so on occasion I have had to remind myself that the final decision is not actually mine to take but if I have given the fair and balanced view I have fulfilled my role.
  • In reply to Barbara:

    Totally agree with you, Barbara, it is vital that processes are in place to allow individuals to raise concerns. Ethical practice starts from the top and needs to be embedded at all levels, supporting everyone in the organisation with appropriate processes, accountability and care.
  • In reply to Sarah:

    Hi Tim and Sarah,

    I really like the point about not all unethical practice being "sinister" too, and I totally agree. The danger of course is that, whether intentional or not, unethical practices can have a big impact on others in the organisation and also on the wider organisation and its ability to reach maximum potential - it's so important to challenge those behaviours and address any development needs that arise..

    Tim - I think your example highlights the point perfectly and, yes, hindsight is always a wonderful thing! Do you think that you would take a different approach now?
  • In reply to Sarah:

    Definitely will be interesting to see, Sarah, yes. Some great case studies and lessons learnt coming in the future I'm sure!
  • In my part of the world, the fear of losing one's job when one challenges senior leaders for unethical behaviour can put pressure on a professional to compromise ethical behaviour. E.g. In some of our public institutions, HR professionals are used/seen as "rubber stamps" internally. The state (governement in power) appoints a CEO, who would want to influence the HR professional to employ workers from the government's party who do not have the KSAs into the institution. If the HR professional refuses to honour the request, the professional would either be transferred to another department just to frustrate him. In such a scenario, the HR professional may succumb with the view to retaining his job. But the institutional and clients (citizens/public) suffer as the recruited workers may not be able to meet the expectations of the institution / clients. This will lead to low productivity.

    In the light of the above, I have personally declined to work within the public sector and have already declined invitations from recruitment agencies to take leadership roles within the Civil Service.

    Generally, one of my advise to colleagues (in HR practice) is not to accept any form of gifts from the stakeholders we serve. Gifts (or facilitation fees, as some may call it) tends to influence one's judgement, so the honourable thing to do is to decline and not encourage stakeholders giving you gifts. It builds your level of integrity in the eyes of the stakeholders and they will be circumspect when they are engaging or consulting with you.
  • As HR professionals, I am 100% positive that ethical decision making is a topic we all deal with on a day to basis. When faced with an ethical dilemma I tell myself and my colleagues, is it legal? if it fair? and is it consistent (with our values and with how we have treated others)? For me, its common sense, yet we are faced with these challenges daily. Whether that's a restructure designed to exit a specific person, rewards given to the people that are most liked rather than on performance or high-sanctions applied in disciplinaries that are not warranted. More often than not, I find that it is the business pressures and internal (and external) stakeholders agenda that compromises ethical decision- making.
  • In reply to Yaw:

    Wow.... thank you for your honestly and for sharing.