Leaders and Their Ethical Responsibilities

Can you give an example of behavior that is legal but unethical? Could you imagine a situation that would find you engaging in such unethical behavior?

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One of the examples of behavior that is legal but unethical is the engagement of large western brands in the cooperation with suppliers or manufacturers from developing countries. For example, well-known clothes brands such as H&M, Marks & Spencer, and Zara, among others, tend to either purchase supplies from highly dangerous factories in Bangladesh, China, India, and Indonesia or hire them for manufacturing (Chapman, 2017). In many cases, such factories operate without any codes of ethics and can engage into severely polluting practices or abuse their workers, exploiting children as laborers or forcing people to work in extremely hazardous conditions. Outsourcing and using a global supply chain are legal practices, but in this particular case, they are highly unethical. I believe that I could potentially engage in this kind of unethical behavior. This could happen if I was not aware of the unethical side of the matter. In fact, the lack of awareness of the hazardous practices employed by suppliers and manufacturers in developing countries is the most common explanation for the engagement into unethical practices provided by the western brands.

Would you ever use information that you or a colleague obtained fraudulently?

Regardless of the manner in which it was acquired, the information obtained fraudulently can be very helpful. For example, using an unethical and intrusive means of surveillance in the workplace, an employer may find out that some of the employees are engaged in the leaks of valuable information to a competitor. Practically, in this case, the employer becomes aware of the presence of unethical behaviors through committing an unethical action. In that way, it would be unreasonable for the employer to ignore the situation. However, addressing it legally would also require reporting about the unethical surveillance in the workplace. Differently put, the information needs to be used, and the action should be taken but without the public acknowledgement of the fraudulent measures of information acquisition. To answer this question personally, I believe that I would use the information as guidance for a more careful decision-making but not for a public admission.

In your opinion, is exaggeration lying?

Exaggeration can be employed for various purposes. For example, in literary works and art exaggeration is used in order to emphasize a certain feature or a point. In casual communication, exaggeration is used for the purpose of enhancing the impression made by a speaker or for humor. These kinds of exaggeration are harmless and should not be considered as a lie. However, in science, medicine, or statistics, where exaggeration can impact data and serve as the cause of impaired decision-making, this type of distortion of information should be considered and treated as lying. In other words, I think that exaggeration should be considered unethical and equal to lying when it is done in order to influence the data that informs decision-making and can affect people; even if its purpose is noble. For example, one can publish fake research exaggerating the adverse effects of a certain chemical or drug for the purpose of stopping people from taking it. In this situation, the distortion of data should be treated as lying regardless of its noble purpose of protecting people.

In your opinion, is lying ever justifiable?

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Practically, the reasons why someone lied can be understood because most people have engaged in lying many times throughout the course of their lives due to fear or shame or to protect themselves or someone else. Lying can be justified only in rare situations when it was inevitable and the liar was forced to hide or distort information for a good cause that outweighs the outcome of lying. At the same time, justified lies remain unethical.

What actions might cause people to lose trust in a leader?

A leader is a living representation of the ethical code and morals they promote. A leader is to model the behaviors desired from the followers (Gamble & Gamble, 2012). Engaging in behavior that contradicts the promoted code of ethics and morals will cause the followers to lose trust in this leader. Some of the major ethical behaviors promoted in most organizations are honesty, transparency, respect for others, and efficient treatment of resources. Logically, a leader who was caught lying, cheating, stealing resources, abusing power, or treating others with disrespect will lose the trust of their followers and suffer a massive damage to reputation.

What are you willing to do to get ahead or come out on top?

I believe that I am a very competitive person and that is why I can easily lose control during a heated competition and engage in behavior that may be unpleasant to my rivals. As a child, I used to cheat a lot. However, as an adult, I tend to participate in more serious competitions and perceive cheating as an unacceptable practice and treating others fairly – as a personal responsibility. However, in a competition, I tend to become less sensitive to my rivals. For example, once I remember feeling happy about an accident that happened to my competitor that made them no longer able to participate in the contest. I took it as a lucky break instead of feeling compassion or slowing down to help this person through the crisis. Otherwise, if we had not been in a competition, I would not even hesitate to provide help to a person facing troubles, but the spirit of competition made me become insensitive in order to come out on top. This happened because of motivation that was good enough to make me forget about ethics for a moment.

How do you decide where to draw the line between what you believe to be right and wrong?

I usually evaluate my decisions based on their potential outcomes and their effect on other people. Based on this kind of assessment, I am able to tell which decision is good and which is bad. Also, I believe that fixed categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are not always applicable. This is why the wisest approach, to my mind, is to consider the consequences of my actions and their potential impacts and then decide whether a certain action is going to bring good or bad results.

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Would you rather fail than compromise your values?

I would rather fail than compromise my values. I have a strong sense of moral, and I know that committing an immoral or unethical action will weigh on me for the rest of my life making me feel guilty. Failing is nothing to be ashamed of compared to committing an immoral action.

Is there any such thing as an acceptable ethical lapse?

An ethical lapse is an overlooked ethical error (Frenz, 2017). Ethical lapses happen in many workplaces and represent unethical actions or treatments that are unacceptable. Ethical lapses can be overcome and even forgiven (Davoren, n.d.). At the same time, treating lapses as acceptable is allowing for accidental unethical actions to take place without considering their resolution. Regarding ethical lapses as acceptable is recognizing unethical actions as normal, which is unethical in itself. Ethical lapses can occur unexpectedly and unpredictably, but this does not mean that they are acceptable or should be treated as such. For this reason, workplaces that experience ethical lapses hurry to address them and prevent their incidence.

Is willful blindness—telling those who work for you to not reveal to you questionable actions so that you can claim no knowledge of them—excusable?

In my opinion, willful blindness can be excusable only when the matter is already known, and in order to remain impartial in the case, a leader may choose to stay away from the legal process by having no knowledge of the details. For example, if an employee was caught committing an unlawful action, the leader may choose not to listen to the worker’s explanation in order to remain objective; but the leader is legally and morally obligated to report the breach of law so that legal authorities and forces could deal with the matter.

Should every organization have an ethics code? If you answer yes, what would you put in it? If you answer no, why do you believe such a code to be unnecessary?

Yes, every organization should have a code of ethics because it serves for a variety of purposes. Some of such purposes include compliance (providing the employees with clear instructions about what should and should not be done in the workplace), risk mitigation (preventing hazards and conflicts that could derive from unclear workplace ethics), and marketing (issuing a public statement of the organization’s values and mission) (“Why have a code of conduct,” n.d.). In addition, a code of ethics is necessary because it serves as the basis on which an organization’s vision and strategy are built. Also, it expresses the organization’s culture and philosophy with which the employees are expected to align their expectations and behaviors. Without a code of ethics, an organization is likely to face multiple legal problems, breaches of discipline, workplace accidents, and earn a negative reputation among the member of the general public.

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References

Chapman, B. (2017). H&M, Zara, M&S and others found buying from highly polluting factories in Asia. Web.

Davoren, J. (n.d.). Ethical lapses in business. Web.

Frenz, R. (2017). What are ethical lapses? Web.

Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2012). Leading with communication: A practical approach to leadership communication. New York, NY: SAGE Publications.

Why have a code of conduct. (n.d.). Web.

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