Performance Inspirations

Leadership and HR Trends Blog

Ethics: A perspective on perspectives

Recently I was invited to present at the last of a 3-part DeSales University ‘Ethics in the Workplace’ series.  “The Consequences of: Someone will Win, Someone will Lose - The Ethical Dilemma in Decision Making”

The program engaged two labor lawyers and my Strategic HR perspective regarding our expertise in decision-making and the effects that those decisions have, real impacts in the business world and on our clients. 

Policies and how they are written and communicated shape culture and mitigate a businesses’ risk.  As a business coach, there is not a day that goes by that I am not making a recommendation or decision which presents magnetic pulls to my ethical compass. 


As an adviser to business owners – it is my responsibility to put their interests (personal and professional) first toward aligning with their goals and vision for their company. Providing anticipated consequences and probable impact is just as vital as guidance on the strategy and how to execute on a plan.

Actively choosing to engage with a client is the first ethical dilemma that many practitioners sidestep rather than exercise their rights – oftentimes driven by the directives or desire to grow revenue. When supporting one’s family is weighed against working with a client that you don’t believe will embrace the desire to grow and change, balancing like a playground’s seesaw is the key, the closer to the center of your moral fulcrum, the more ethical and steady your decisions.  A task I weigh heavily, and have forsaken financial security for, in an attempt to do what is right, and just.

What do we as professionals, as members of the community, use to guide our decision making? 

As a coach, the code of conduct, professional liability insurance requirements, and bylaws of professional organizations weight in. As a Rotarian, the four-way test resonates: Is it the truth? On the spiritual side like some religious doctrines nets out to  “Love your neighbor as I have loved you” aura manifests, and what I share with my clients and loved ones – listen to your gut – that clear, still voice deep inside you, and do the right thing. 

How does this manifest in your day-to-day?  

As a manager, you fill out a performance evaluation for one of your direct reports.  In an attempt to bring this employee into the culture and make their assimilation into the team easy, you share personal stories, realize you have similar interests – you both ride motorcycles, you invite him to go on a ride.  Texting outside of work increases, and a friendship begins to form.    

While facilitating the review, the HR Consultant noticed that two incidents which were previously discussed with you which required corrective action were not mentioned, and in the applicable categories, you rated the employee: ‘At Expectations’.

Did a personal prejudice come into play while evaluating the skills and abilities during his performance evaluation? What is your responsibility as a manager to this and other employees?  What ethical responsibility does HR have to intercede, and to what extent?  Does your perspective change if it was the owner who filled out or approved the evaluation?


This situation is one of an ongoing web when multiple variables are in play.  Here is another example.

An e-mail is received in which an employee wrote that they were not sure how much longer they could handle the discrimination. In and of itself, this would need to be investigated, the key word being ‘discrimination’.

The first step would be to speak with the ‘complainant’ (person reporting that they are being discriminated against) to address the claim of discrimination.

Even in just how the word ‘discrimination’ is intonated, the pauses at different portions, body language, vocabulary used relative to the mental acuity of the recipient, non-verbal cues presented, the usage of eye contact, or avoidance, all have the potential to impact the outcome, (for example, a shy person could be intimidated with direct eye contact.)  Being just and impartial is a challenge, awareness of the components is a beginning.  

How does the Emotional Intelligence Literacy of the person conducting the investigation come into play? What accommodations should they utilize in interpreting how the information is heard? To what extent should communications be altered?

What if the owner had shared their perspectives or desired results with the investigators prior – either defending the employee or disregarding the employee? 

How does your position change based on the following potential information?

·       What if the complainant was a 58-year-old female.

·       What if the complainant was a 35-year-old white male. 

Would your opinions change dependent on who tells the story? What if it were the Owner, a manager, an employee, a customer, someone from the community, a lawyer, or a judge?

The information we have, our own bias, perspectives, and experiences, the way we ask questions and gather information is not just a tool, but carries an ethical responsibility, and is woven with consequences.

We are blessed with the opportunity to examine, and respond daily - how we respond becomes our defining moments.   I invite you to accept the obligation to  open this dialogue on an ongoing basis. It is up to you to decide, and to act.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
— Thomas A. Edison