It can be extremely difficult to express your personal values at work, especially when confronted with questions of right vs. wrong. Issues become thornier when youre facing a choice between degrees of right vs. right.
While research reveals universal values across cultures, not everyone agrees on what makes a worthy business decision:
Most of us want to bring our whole selves to work: our skills, ambitions and deeply held beliefs. We will inevitably encounter values conflicts during our careers, particularly when our goals and ideals clash with clients, peers, bosses and organizational expectations.
Past attempts at preparing business leaders to act ethically often failed not because they couldnt distinguish right from wrong, but because they didnt know how to act on their values amid opposing pressures.
Many people believe blowing the whistle wont do any good. And how can they effectively object without assuming personal risk?
Some of us also struggle with framing objections in a rational way, without assuming the role of morals police. We simply lack practice in holding values-based discussions.
Giving Voice to Values
In Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know Whats Right (Yale University Press, 2010), management expert Mary C. Gentile, PhD, asserts that being aware of ethical issues and analyzing ones options may be insufficient in todays complex work environment. Most of us fail to take appropriate values-based actions:
We must confidently flex our moral muscles and habitually speak up to be true to our values. But when a boss wants to alter a financial report, a sales team misrepresents a product or you witness workplace discrimination, youll be faced with several key challenges:
Developing Effective Scripts
Answer the following questions when faced with a values conflict:
These questions are not about ethical analysis. Theyre designed to help you understand the reasons and motivations rational, emotional, organizational, personal, ethical, unethical that guide ones behavior and choices.
Also consider the following when seeking alternative solutions to questionable decisions:
As you assess the personal risks youll take when going against a leader or the group consensus, be sure to weigh the costs of not speaking up.
When a situation impinges on our deepest values, we often leap to a place of righteousness and passion. While its tempting to appeal to morality and ethics, youll likely be more persuasive and constructive if your appeal is simpler and less emotional.
Develop alternative actions, and present your case calmly and rationally. Dont remain silent when you care about an issue. Embrace the courage that comes from having a strategy grounded in reality and reason.
We have a choice to speak up when faced with questionable actions one that becomes more easily accessible when we practice giving voice to our values.
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