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?  

  • In my experience as a freelancer, the one thing that seems to create most pressure on whether there is ethical behaviour is the attitude of 'owner/managers'. These are people who have created a business from scratch, and have grown it into a good sized company with plenty of employees and don't want to hear about what others think is 'right' for their business. They ultimately have the last word too. So being persuasive and sticking to your guns is really important and is my best advice for dealing with it.
  • From my own experience, the markets / sectors we work in can create pressure by cultivating ways of working that hamper ethical decision making.

    I worked for one of the UK's largest grocery retailers for a number of years; the pace of change in that environment is very quick and reactive and the organisation created ways of working to facilitate that in an operational sense. We were all trained in core activities to generate speedy identification of problems and speedy solutions; and we were both acknowledged and praised for our efforts in this regard.

    In effect, the organisation developed a reactive and quick thinking culture targeted toward solutions, which is ideal for their market. However, these same behaviours and ways of working filtered down into individual people decisions also, with the focus on the solution, rather than the problem.

    My advice about how best to avoid compromising your own ethics is to make someone else's appraisal of a situation the starting point for your own assessment of the problem they present you with, taking into account evidence that supports their appraisal and evidence that doesn't.
  • In my experience people can confuse being ethical and being legal. As they are not always the same thing, especially in employment law, where coverage is minimal and some may view the ethical pathway as going above and beyond this, whereas organisations may choose to only comply at the minimal level.

    The questions I always ask myself are:
    What decision would I make in this situation as the Manager?
    What decision would I want made as the Employee?
    What decision would I make as the CEO or head of the organisation?
    Am I complying legally?
    Do I feel ethically sound in this decision?
    If not I go back.
  • In reply to Christina:

    You've got a valid point there, Christina, often ethics and legal aspects can be confused/misinterpreted. You're right, just because something is legal, it doesn't mean it is ethical, it's about doing the right thing, even if that goes above and beyond the law.

    I like your list of questions, definitely useful to put yourself in the position of someone else to consider what might be the best/most acceptable outcome from their perspective. Whilst each individual may not be entirely happy with a decision that is made, ultimately, I agree that you have to be entirely comfortable with your choices and actions.
  • While I was in a training program outside the company, I was surprised by a circular from the General Manager to convert the method of calculating annual leave on the basis of 21 working days per year instead of the 30 calendar days, and as a result of this circular I received angry calls from employees in the matter, complaining of losing a day of their annual leave balance for following this new mechanism, so I calmed them down with a promise to study the matter and take a corrective decision if necessary.
    Then I went meeting the manager to find out about the matter, and his response to the reason for the decision was that he wanted to follow the same mechanism used in the company's headquarters located in another country, but he did not know that the calendar 30-days in a year is something decided under the applicable employment law, and it is also a fixed article in each Employment contracts for company employees
    As a result of this confrontation with the General Manager, I clarified the picture that the decision is not against the law only, but rather it is related to a breach of the company's code of ethics towards its employees and its reputation in the surrounding community for the violation of laws and legislations, so General Manager could only withdraw this decision.
  • some of the factors that create pressures can be bad job design, work pressures, sales targets most importantly culture in the workplace. If you have leaders who openly act unethically or make decisions based on the easy/fast way and not the right/ethical way then this behavior will go down the ladder. I think it is important for HR professionals to be able to challenge the behavior and feel confident and have no fear of backlash. I would also add that the best way to resist compromising your ethics is to listen to yourself, the minute it feels uncomfortable or not quite right then either address it right away or if you don't feel comfortable to challenge then raise it with another manager in your team.
  • In my working experience ethical practice can be compromised by client requests, putting their needs above what may be the right thing to do. Finances play a big part in this. I previously oversaw a contract which did not treat our people (outsourced service providers) very well, but as they were a huge contract, it went unchallenged.
    I agree with Christina, just because it may technically be legal, doesn't mean that it is ethically sound. For me, the trust and integrity shown by Senior Leadership team will always be the biggest influence on the culture of working practices. I have been in places where my inner values have been compromised to such an extreme with no allowance to challenge without punishment (and by punishment, I mean negative feedback and being seen as a challenge!) it became very unhealthy.
    Advice to others is not to compromise on your choice of company / working environment if you end up in a situation like this and make changes.
  • Hiya,

    So excited to finally carving some time out to upskill.

    In my experience ethical behaviour and where it gets compromised is normally to do with conflicting priorities.

    In this case, then the question is to pull it apart and find out where the conflict lies, is it a manager whose personal values are not aligned with the organisation and because the organisation is remote the Manager is not being checked and engaged with the organisation?

    Is it the health and safety requirements are conflicting with customer demand snd so corners are cut to meet the customer requirements?

    Is it an individuals core values and beliefs are conflicting with the organisation and its just a genuine bad fit?

    Crack that and you're going to find it far easier to bring everyone on the ethical journey.

    However, you also get unethical behaviour in the form of bullying where social constructs and local cultures (either globally or departmental) come into play, this is unethical however needs to be addressed taking into consideration the wider scope.

    Either way this is all about working towards organisational change.

    My main advice is to check in with yourself, are you a genuine fit, do your core values align with the ethics of the organisation? it's hard to check anyone else's ethics if you're not aligned either. If you are aligned then its a case of finding a constructive way to find the root cause and solve the reason for the unethical practice.
  • Workplace culture is one of the biggest factor in compromising ethical practice, if it is 'what is normally done' the ethical considerations can easily be overlooked. It is important to stand up against this and try and change the culture. I think the ethical implications need to be considered prior to the legal considerations of any decision.
  • Hi all, thank you for sharing all of your ideas and experience. I am in an L&D role, so ethics wasn't something I really considered before as part of my role (other than in developing our Code of Conduct and Professional Boundaries training) but I am working on my first unit on the new Level 7 L&D qualification, which is ethical practice and I am finding this all quite fascinating.
    Here are my reflections based on things I have seen as precursors to unethical bahaviours:
    • Relationships – either because you like someone or you don’t. Both lead to unethical behaviour and are toxic. This is the most common one in my experience
    • Workload– feeling over-worked or unrealistic targets, time pressures, etc
    • Stress / mental health issues / exhaustion
    • Apathy – not caring about the work, the impact you are having or the people who benefit from the service you offer. Empathy fatigue
    • Prejudice / stereotyping / ‘ism’s
    • Culture – following the crowd, learning from other people’s behaviours
    • Not feeling valued, or part of something (a team or an organisation)
    • Doing what you want, what is right for you- rather than doing what is right for the majority
  • Thank you CIPD for these really useful online courses - they're proving very useful for my L7 Diploma in Strategic People Management.

    From my experiences, ethical practice can be compromised by relationships, workloads and a lack of engagement.

    -Relationships can lead to bias decisions being made - often without following a fair and transparent process.
    -Heavy workloads can lead to shortcuts being taken - often the easiest and quickest outcome is made without taking into consideration all of the information / evidence.
    -Lack of Engagement can lead to decisions being made without due care or attention of the facts / evidence.

    My recommendation would be to confidently challenge any unethical behaviour you witness, and consider the IBE's fair, affect, press test when coming to any conclusions - a really useful tool to determine whether your decision is truly ethical.
  • The time that sticks in my mind is working with a manager helping with interviews, the week after a 'person' was confirmed in one of the roles, I bought to there attention we had not seen the presentation and they had not been interviewed.

    When I spoke to the manager, he said 'I showed you the presentation, and we discussed the outcome without them being present.' This was not the case. The factors behind this fabrication were: time pressure for roles: bias for the person: workload pressures, culture for individual performance, processes, no accountability.

    The outcome was formal warning for manager, saving of reputation for company with the person keeping the role, and other unsuccessful candidates not being re-interviewed. And everyone keeping quiet about the situation.

    Even through I challenged and spoke to head of department, the outcome was compromised as they had to save reputation for the organisation and department, leading to unethical behaviour. All interviews should have been reviewed, and the 'person' should have been asked to present the presentation and been interviewed. The process needed to be reviewed for flaws and be more water tight to stop it happening again.
  • This is a great resource, and i am enjoying my learning into the world of ethics.
    For me ethical practice is having the courage to challenge a situation or decision which isn't sound usually based on bias, poor behaviours etc. One in which an individual or group aren't valued equally.
    In my experience some of the hardest challenges lie in the subtly unethical behaviours those which sit on the edge, usually someone in a position of seniority influencing someone more junior to accept a decision based on, their experience, their business knowledge, sometimes their longevity and it can impact that more junior person into accepting a decision impacting someone else's career. They don't have the background or experience to challenge it.
    Having sound core values, being an organisation that champions openness and transparency , leadership that demonstrates actively honesty and encourages transparency does in the end shine a light on that subtle unethical behaviour but it can be hard. I know that as i have become more senior within my business that I do have far more courage to speak out and speak up, and i remind my team that we are acting often as the champions for peoples voices.