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  • Foto del escritorJuanpablo Barrantes

Keep ethics from "fading" when you face a tough decision

This article is adapted of an original post from the University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership, 2020) By Juanpablo Barrantes Leader’s approach (5 min read) Reconsider, rethink and reflect to get rid of gray areas and keep ethics ahead and first place in the decisions you make.   Imagine you have a day care center. But you have a problem: parents are often late to pick up their children. This means that your teaching staff has to stay late, which creates discomfort, frustrations and exhaustion in teachers. You want to protect your staff and you want to take the message to parents that it is important to arrive on time. So, you take action: you implement a fine for late pickups. Each parent who arrives more than 10 minutes late will have to pay extra.   Will this bold move solve your problem? Probably not.   In fact, the approach is likely to be counterproductive, according to a well-known study published in 2000. The study authors worked with 10 different daycare centers and randomly selected six to introduce a system of late collection fines. At the end of the study, the centers that introduced the fines were approximately twice as late as the centers that did not introduce the new policy. Ethical Fading:   If the fine was intended to eliminate late collections: why did it have the opposite effect? The researchers suggest that it was because the fine changed the way parents perceived their delay. Before the fines, his delay was a moral problem. They are likely to feel guilty or ashamed for being late. But after the fine, the delay was no longer about morality; It was simply a financial decision. The fine was the price they paid for receiving a service.   This problem applies to countless big and small decisions we make every day. We rarely want to do something wrong, but subtle cues lead us to ignore the moral implications of our decisions. We let our ethics "fade" out of sight. Researchers call this process ethical fading. It is one of the main reasons why there is a gap between how we intend to behave and how we end up behaving in reality.   When ethical fading occurs in high-risk situations, the results can be disastrous. Case study, "Ford Pinto": In the 70s, in crash tests, the Ford Pinto gas tank showed a tendency to explode. But after an analysis suggested that it would be cheaper to pay the claims than to make the repair of $ 11 per vehicle, Ford decided not to repair the fault. By making what appeared to be a smart "business decision," Ford leaders made an unethical decision and put many of their customers in danger of death.   —How to avoid ethical fading in my decision making? -   Ethical fading is subconscious, and that makes it difficult to fight. While we will never be immune to ethical fading, we can take steps to protect ourselves and our organizations against its harmful effects.   Reconsider your euphemisms.   Sometimes we use confusing language or technical terms to hide the moral components of our decisions: - "We do not bribe here, we just perform tactical actions to facilitate the process ..." - "This action is not in deterioration of the quality of the product but in favor of serving our customers given the urgencies ..." - "With this action I am holding back an unfair collection payment of an authority..." In each case, our euphemisms allow us to ignore the ethical conflict of decisions that are clearly not correct! Likewise, it does not let us see the eventual situation of people who may be harmed or treated unfairly due to our decisions, or the affectation that we eventually generate to our reputation and that of our Company. Therefore, avoid euphemisms and be honest with yourself; Clear and honest language also has many other benefits: It will help you build trust and therefore make a credibility a solid foundation as a leader.  Rethink and reflect on your moral compass.

  A timely and well located reminder can help us consider your moral compass when a difficult choice arises. The best reminders will be clear, helping us cut the gray areas in a decision. A personal or Organizational moral motto or mantra can strongly influence the measure that makes us reflect before making an important decision, thus avoiding the risk of ethical fading. —“Be kind to anyone anytime” —“Let’s do the right thing, always!” —What is your your moral compass? — Is there any (moral) mirror test where you reflect yourself to ponder on those difficult decisions you face as a leader? 

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