Talking Ethics With Your Team

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By the time you engage the employees on your team in professional development, they are already grown ups with thier own ideas, values and beliefs. Many will think that teaching and discussing ethics is simply baloney. You don’t want to preach, get all ‘touchy-feely, ’ like HR is often accused of, or lecture about the law like an attorney. Whether your team is a band of cynics or bored with the topic - talking about ethical decisions is the first step to acting ethically.

TIPS:

  • Focus on the clear articulation of goals and outcomes and emphasize critical thinking and analysis. Forget about teaching rules and statutes. If these decisions were clear, there would be no need to discuss ethics – you’d just lay down the ‘law.’

  • Don’t lecture. Include case studies, discussions, role plays or interactive exercises. Use video, famous scenes from television or movies, or bring in lawyers or whistle blowers.

  • Keep it brief and to the point. Give examples and tell stories that invite analysis. Don’t bore them with court opinions, law review articles or anything overly wordy or erudite.

  • Ask questions that reveal how someone thinks and avoid questions that can be answered by parroting back what has been read or previously stated. You want to know that people are grappling with ethical decisions, not just telling you what they think you want to hear.

  • Give people a chance to talk and be heard. Use small group discussions followed by a larger group de-brief. Don’t make it too lengthy a session or too large a group.

  • Use slides with print big enough for everyone to read and interesting visuals and photos. Don’t have a lot of slides that you have to go through (leading to either boredom or too-fast a pace.

  • No matter how much fun the role play or case study discussion is, leave plenty of time for discussions in the large groups and some provocative questions that challenge the team.

Taking discussions about ethics seriously and devoting time to a talking about outcomes and consequences can lead your team to understand that ethical decisions in the workplace are a constant challenge. Articulating your expectations about their importance sends one kind of message and not having the conversation sends a very different one; which would you prefer to send?

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