In my previous posts on values and ethics in business, I’ve shared some great suggestions from Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right (Yale University Press, 2010), by management expert Mary C. Gentile, PhD. She asserts that most of us fail to take appropriate values-based actions when we see questionable practices.

The author suggests we consider the following when seeking alternative solutions to questionable decisions:

  • Long- and short-term thinking/goals
  • Your organization’s broader purpose (not just the immediate conflict)
  • The assumed definition of “competitive advantage”
  • How you can be an agent of continuous improvement and actionable alternatives vs. the complaint department/morality police
  • Slippery slopes that can become future ethical cliffs
  • How the “game metaphor” affects business culture and decision-making (“It’s just how the game is played…”)
  • The costs to each affected party (and how to mitigate them to make your argument more appealing)
  • Whether your target audience is pragmatic (vs. idealistic or opportunistic) — and how you can help them find ways to do the right thing

As you assess the personal risks you’ll take when going against a leader or the group consensus, be sure to weigh the costs of not speaking up:

What could happen if you fail to raise objections?

Preserve Rationality

When a situation impinges on our deepest values, we often leap to a place of righteousness and passion. While it’s tempting to appeal to morality and ethics, you’ll likely be more persuasive and constructive if your appeal is simpler and less emotional.

Develop alternative actions, and present your case calmly and rationally. Don’t 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.

Does this make sense to you? Have you ever witnessed or been part of questionable practices because it was a requirement of your job? Think about what actions you took or didn’t take. Imagine some alternatives.

Prepare yourself by discussing the issues with a trusted peer, mentor or professional coach. Be prepared for the next time, as there most assuredly will be a next time.

If you’d like to talk, contact me here. I’d love to speak with you!