Monday 16 April 2007

Ethical Rationalisations

Do we practice member care in an ethical manner? How do we know?

Here are 10 areas of rationalisation—sub-standards—that we can all-too-easily adopt. It is based on the work of Ken Pope and Melba Vasquez (1999) with adaptations from Kelly and Michele O'Donnell (2006). It is important for us all to look regularly in the mirror of our hearts, individually and with others, in order to scrutinise both our motives and the ethical quality of our member care work. In the words of Pope and Vasquez:

"Faced with the complex demands, human costs, constant risks, and often limited resources from our work, we may be tempted to simplify life by changing or overlooking our ethical responsibilities. Not wanting to view ourselves or have others view us as being unethical, we use common fallacies and rationalizations to justify our unethical behaviors and quiet a noisy conscience. These attempts to disguise our unethical behaviors might be called ethical sub-standards, although they are not really ethical" (p.1).

10 Ethical Rationalizations to Avoid
**It is ethical as long as you don’t know a law, ethical principle, or Bible verse that prohibits it.
**It is ethical as long as your colleagues or service receivers do not complain about it; or as long as no one else knows or wants to know; or as long as you can convince others that it is OK.
**It is ethical as long as you or your telecommunications technology were having a “bad day”, thus affecting your usual quality of work; or as long as the circumstances and decision were difficult; or as long as you are busy, rushed, or multi-tasking.
**It is ethical as long as you follow the majority of your ethical guidelines; or as long as you only intend to do it one time.
**It is ethical as long as there is no intent to do harm, you are being sincere, “your heart is in the right place”, and you are trying to do the best that you can.
**It is ethical as long as you are a moral person; or a nice, competent, or respected person; or as long as you provide free services.
**It is ethical as long as you “take responsibility for your decision/behavior”; or as long as you were acting with “integrity”; or as long as it does not seem to negatively impact your behavior or emotions.
**It is ethical as long as the matter is not completely black and white; or as long as someone else is also “wrong or more wrong” than you are: or as long as others do it.
**It is ethical as long as you believe/feel it is not unethical.
**It is ethical as long as you are an important person.

Reflection and Discussion

  • Which of the above rationalisations can you relate to the most?
  • Can you list some other rationalisations?
  • What helps us avoid using such rationalisations?

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