How to Raise Ethical Issues at Work
“Part of the reason ethical issues get so sticky is that we believe they are a test of our morals, which can lead us to make less rational decisions. But even when emotions are left out, ethical issues at work are rarely black and white. Motivations to turn a blind eye when we know something doesn’t pass the smell test include a fear of speaking out against those with more power, a conflict of interest, and a loosening of standards.
… what’s the best way to tackle a touchy ethical issue if it’s happening in your workplace? A report in the offered some insights.
DON’T RATIONALIZE IT AWAY
Telling yourself it isn’t a big deal, or that it’s not in your job description to police others will only prolong a problem and potentially make it worse, because you are reframing the situation so you don’t have to feel bad about it. Instead, experts advise thinking about your underlying motivation for staying mum. Fear of retaliation is often made bigger in your mind.
WEIGH THE PROS AND CONS
Does it affect only you, your team, or the business as a whole? Assessing what is at risk—a lawsuit, money, a customer relationship—could reinforce the reason to either speak out or stay quiet.
GET ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE
Namely that of the perpetrator. Understand why they may be acting in a certain way, and it may not be bad. For example, the person who skips out early may still be getting all their work done, just not during the same hours as everyone else. Others aren’t acting unethically as a whole, they may just want to alleviate the immediate burden of confrontation.
Talking to that person before going to their supervisor will give them the opportunity to explain and potentially change their ways. It’s important to remember to ask questions, and not immediately point an accusatory finger, which could backfire.
TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL
If the person with questionable ethics is your boss, it’s best to proceed with caution. Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Accountability, tellsFast Company that you should begin by letting your boss know you have their best interest in mind. ‘This shows your purpose is not to question their authority, but to do the right thing.’ Likewise, it is important to explain to them why you won’t participate in unethical practices, and what consequence you see as a result of the company’s bad behavior.”