Moral equilibrium is the idea that most people keep a running mental scoreboard where they compare their self-image as a good person with what they actually do.
When we do something inconsistent with our positive self-image, we naturally feel a deficit on the good side of our scoreboard. Then, we will often actively look for an opportunity to do something good to bring things back into equilibrium. This is called moral compensation.
Conversely, when we have done something honourable, we feel a surplus on the good side of our mental scoreboard. Then, we may then give ourselves permission not to live up to our own ethical standards. This is called moral licensing.
Some leaders are uncomfortable with the idea of publicly "setting an example" in ethical behaviour. All too familiar with their own weaknesses and shortcomings, they worry about placing themselves on a pedestal. Some even wonder if it is prideful or even a little arrogant to hold oneself up as an example. Couldn't too much talk about one's ethics even make followers stressed out, suspicious, or resentful?
A new study offers guidance that can help leaders navigate this difficult terrain. It reveals that the process of influencing others to behave more ethically isn't about ostentatiously displaying ethical perfection. In fact, the study shows that remaining humble about your own morality can actually serve as an asset in encouraging moral behaviour in others.
When a reward is tempting enough, people will break their own moral codes to gain the desired prize. Afterward, they will justify their decisions using a rationalising process called “moral disengagement”. People are self-interested, but we don’t like to face that about ourselves because we also have a strong need to see ourselves as good people, they argue, so we unintentionally, and quite effortlessly, use a series of cognitive maneuvers to justify self-interested choices that don’t align with who we say we want to be or what we want others to think about us.
Ethics training important, but how do we know if it works? By evaluating training outcomes. One important factor when designing evaluations is ensuring the appropriate elements are being assessed, in alignment with the training objectives. If the only data collected are the trainees’ perceptions of how useful a particular training intervention is, conclusions may be reached about the relevance of training content, but little, if anything, can be concluded about training effectiveness.
If conducted regularly, training evaluation provides program managers with real-time feedback, which allows potential problems (e.g., an underperforming instructor) to be addressed quickly. In addition, evaluation prompts
trainees to devote more attention to the training content, especially if performance on the evaluation measures is tied to a reward. Finally, evaluation allows for an assessment of the return on investment of time and money.
Rationalisations are the most potent enemy to integrity. They work like an anaesthetic to our consciences allowing us to avoid the pain of guilt when we don’t live up to our values. We want to think well of ourselves so much that we develop strategies to convince ourselves that we are better than we actually are.
Rationalisations are fabricated false justifications we make to ourselves and others when we want to do or have done something we know we shouldn’t. We go to all the trouble to make up these stories because we care what others think of us and, more important, we want to think well of ourselves.
Research dating back to the 1950s shows that, when faced with a group in agreement, individuals will often act against their best judgement in order to agree with the group. More recent research on conformity offers a brighter picture, highlighting the ways we can not only voice dissent, but also create meaningful change in others' attitudes and behaviours.
Whistleblowing processes are vital to achieving integrity, good governance and freedom from corruption in organisations across the world. The research project Whistling While They Work 2: Improving managerial responses to whistleblowing in public and private sector organisations sheds new light on:
•Strengths and weaknesses in organisational responses to whistleblowing;
•The impacts and outcomes by which to judge organisational responses; and
•The most important factors explaining why better or worse responses are occurring.
This research compared the experiences of over 17,000 of people involved in whistleblowing. The report Clean as a Whistle: a five step guide to better whistleblowing policy and practice in business and government presents the key findings of the research.
PRSB Professional Standards Division hosted an online workshop with Professor Wim Vandekerckhove focusing on whistle blowing.
This evidence based conversation answers the following questions:
What does trust mean concretely for speaking up?
Who needs to trust whom? And to do or be what exactly?
How can we establish trust for people to speak up?
What evidence do we have about what works and what guidance is available?
All organizations understand the value of feedback. But only some encourage opinions both positive and negative and lend an ear to self-styled “devil’s advocates.” Employees who make concerns known help organizations thrive by identifying issues and providing opportunities to adapt, innovate, and avoid costly mistakes.
This is especially true for ethical behaviors. Employees who speak up when they observe misconduct help organizations reduce risk. The sooner they speak up, the sooner the organization can take action to prevent potential issues from developing into major scandals and damaging headlines.
The impact that ethics teaching has seems marginal at best and can even backfire. People attend ethics training and pass assessments, but does behaviour change as a result? Too often the answer is "no".
In this short video Mary Gentile, Creator/Director of Giving Voice to Values discusses why many so many approaches to ethics education backfire, and presents other ways to approach ethical behaviour change that can be more effective.