Ethics is a system or code of moral standards of a particular person, group or profession. The operative word is 'system'. A 'system' can be a set of facts, principles or rules arranged in an orderly form. When we make a decision we balance competing priorities, values and perceived obligations in order to make something better than it was. We can make things better by improving something good, making something less bad or reducing uncertainty. A good decision may not be seen by all as being good. However, we can at least be seen to be providing ethical leadership if we are able to: •
Take into account the multiple perspectives held about a decision •
Be fully transparent about the perspectives, the decision and the outcome •
Make the decision against a set of principles or values we aspire to meet.
To illustrate, consider this scenario:
Yesterday, you read in the local newspaper that an employee in your staff had been convicted of failing to pay income tax on private earnings. The employee, who had filed false income tax returns in each of the past five years, holds a senior position. The total tax, which had been avoided, amounted to $5,000. The employee was ordered to pay the amount, together with interest, and the costs of the proceedings. He was also fined $5,000. You have more or less daily contact with the employee who also has frequent contact with prospective and past customers. You had not been aware of the matter. Earlier today, you interviewed an applicant for a Supervisor's position. The applicant holds a university degree and is studying for the Diploma in a field relevant to your industry. You judged the applicant to be mature, to be likely to get on well with people, and to be well qualified for the post. During the interview, the applicant spoke openly about his conviction, as an eighteen-year-old, some 10 years ago, for an offence of robbery and about the four years that he had spent in prison. During his time in...
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