How to make ethical decisions - It’s a tough nut to crack

We have a tendency to use frameworks as tick the box exercises. Work through all the elements in order to tick all the boxes and then you should come out with the right answer. This is all wrong.

Real-life leadership today are full of ambiguity and paradoxes with grey areas around. No framework can ever account for every possibility they may face. And this applies to ethics even more so. Then what frameworks are for? They are still useful to help us guide our thinking. But simply checking the items off the list is not enough. We always need to look inside ourselves, and check our moral compass regularly as well.

The Flat White Framework by Morgen Witzel

  1. What do you know about the situation, and what don’t you know? Sum up the facts. Why is it so important to you?
  2. What are your own loyalties and biases? What/who might influence your decision one way or the other?
  3. What stakeholders groups are involved and how? What are their perspectives of the situation? (How would you define the issue if you stood on the other side of the fence?)
  4. What options are open to you? If they are unsatisfactory, can other options be created?
  5. What issues of right and wrong are involved?
  6. What are the good and bad consequences of these options?
  7. Which option would yield the result that is most fair and equitable?
  8. What do you want to do?
  9. In your heart, what do you feel you should do?
  10. Can you live with the consequences of your actions?
  11. What will you do if it turns out your decision is wrong?

This is a simple framework for making ethical decisions. Leaders often have very little time to gather data or go through all the data at disposal in order to reach the best decision. So you have to go with what you’ve got. You only need a little time to reflect and go through all the questions. Don’t labour the process. Be quick and concise in your answers and as far as possible take a holistic view.

Do this exercise in the morning as there is ‘the morning morality effect’ by Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac Smith advance evidence to suggest that people are more likely make ethical decisions early in the day.

Source: The ethical leader – Why doing the right thing can be the key to competitive advantage by Morgen Witzel

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