The First E - Ethics
In my last post, I introduced the "4 Es" that I debuted earlier this year at the 3CMA Annual Conference in Denver. If you missed that post, you can read it here.
I'd like to delve into each concept a bit, starting with the first E - Ethics.
While there are broad universal agreements about what is right and what is wrong, we each have a set of individualized beliefs that help us determine our actions. Our internalized ethical codes are what help us right ourselves when decision point that throws us off balance.
However, there is a difference between knowing that we have a code of ethics and knowing exactly what that code is. The tricky thing about ethics is that, beyond the universally abhorrent (murder, assault, robbery, etc), there is a great deal of flexibility in what causes us pause. This is not a value judgement. It is simply a truth that we have a great deal of space within what is ok, and by clearly laying out our own parameters we can help make that space less daunting.
Let me give you an example. Say you're at the grocery store and there are free samples of ice cream. You and your friend both take one sample. One of you decides to take a second, but the other feels a lurch in your stomach from the idea of taking another. No laws are broken, nobody gets yelled at, there isn't even a sign warning customers to "only take one," but the person who doesn't take a second sample simply feels that it's outside of what's acceptable behavior to THEM.
I know, from experience, that it is hardest to take a hard ethical stand in that grey area. Because we aren't faced with breaking a law or crossing a societal norm, we feel an instinctual need to justify ourselves or to cave. For this reason, defining, articulating, and codifying our own code of ethics can give us the reinforcement and certainty we need when facing a particularly daunting challenge. By articulating what you will and will not do you can, in a way, make your code a nonnegotiable part of you.
Here are a few simple steps to begin to construct your own code of ethics:
- Research; perhaps a professional organization of which you are a member has a code that you can use as a jumping off point; or simply try searching online for examples.
- Talk to colleagues; people who share your professional experience may help you clarify what is most important to you.
- Reflect; what challenges have you faced that have given you that tightness in your gut? What did you do? How did that feel? Have you ever felt that you crossed a line and regretted it? That is a great starting point.
- Write; simply begin to put down into words what your head and heart tell you. You can edit it and revisit it as often as you need. Sometimes the best way to start is to start.
- Get in touch with me; I love to help people do this work. It is a fantastic activity for individuals, but also for staff or team retreats. If you have other needs, I can incorporate ethical codes into any training or team building. Let me help you put down your ethical roots.
Next time, the second E - Expectations.