Shades of Gray

As you grew up you probably learned that some behavior was “good or right” and other behavior was “bad or wrong.” You were molded by someone else’s framework for ethical decisions. Have you ever reflected on your own framework for making decisions of right versus wrong?
The time to construct your framework for decision making is before you are faced with an ethical dilemma. Consciously choosing the principles that will govern the appropriate conduct for you in advance ensures a more rapid decision with less angst or regret. To create your ethical decision making model there are two steps:

  1. Define your personal values which serve as the basis for your ethics. The Institute for Global Ethics has done a lot of research and found that common global values include honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion and fairness. What are your values?
  2. Intentionally create your framework for making an ethical decision based upon the values you outlined. Some of the “tests” you could subject your decision to include:
  • Law – is it legal or not? The law says that insider trading is wrong. Whether or not other people are doing it, trading insider information is still wrong.
  • Gut – how do you feel inside about the decision? Usually there is an intuitive reaction in your gut. Did Bernie Madoff really feel good about stealing pensions or squandering people’s life savings?
  • Front Page – what if the result of your decision appeared on the front page or a newspaper or popular website? Would Arnold Schwarzenegger have made a different decision if he considered the headlines of the front page stories he would appear in?

Is there really right and wrong? Or, are there shades of gray where the right or wrong decision depends on variable criteria? How will you decide and will you feel good about the front page story that has your name in it?
Decide how you will decide when faced with an ethical decision.

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