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Guidelines for Ethical Decision Making

  1. “Know all the facts.” Make sure you have all the facts and information!
  2. Is the action legal? If the answer is “No”, go no further.
  3. Does it comply with organizational policy? If the answer is “No”, there is probably a good reason not to take the action. If you still feel the action is right, ask for advice.
  4. Are you (or the other party) expecting something inappropriate or inconsistent with organization policy, practice, etc. because of this action? If you are taking this action for material gain, it is probably not ethical. Make sure the action you are taking is to build a relationship with no strings attached and not for personal gain.
  5. Who will be impacted by the decision? Will people be positively or negatively impacted by your decision?
  6. How will it look if the decision is made public? If you would be ashamed to see a written account of this action in the newspaper, don’t do it.
  7. Could the action be interpreted as improper? If this action could be perceived as unethical and you may have to explain your actions, either don’t do it or ask for advice.
  8. Ask.
  • If you get this far and still are concerned or unsure, ask for help.
  • If it’s wrong, don’t do it.
  • If the action clearly breaks company policy and society’s values, don’t do it.
  • If you don’t know, ask.

If you have an ethical issue, ask your advisor or other leadership for advice until you get an answer (Chapman, 2003, p. 51-53).

Reference: Chapman, K. (2003). The leader’s code: a people-sense guide to leadership. New York: Universe. Inc.



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