Home Leadership Turn Archives Me RampUp Solutions Option Sanity
 


  • Categories

  • Archives
 

Are ethical values set or fluid?

by Miki Saxon

Brian Clark over at copyblogger wrote an interesting post on whether or not people really want transparency and authenticity that sparked a discussion that’s well worth reading.

There are times when, “Do these pants make me look fat?” needs to be answered yes, but that yes can be phrased far more diplomatically, e.g., “You have far more becoming outfits to wear.”

Is the businessman who projected a positive persona that performed well truly at fault because his inner thoughts were different from the outer ones?

Isn’t what goes on in your head your business or is what we think the crime vs. what we do?

Isn’t it only when our thoughts spur actions, our own or others, which are detrimental to individuals or society that outsiders have the right to judge them?

Rich Brooks commented, “So, maybe it’s not that what we want is transparency and authenticity, but what we DON’T want is concealment and dishonesty.”

Sounds right, but all four attitudes-transparency, authenticity, concealment and dishonesty—are still situational, based on the society and time in which they’re happening. According to Lynn Sharp Paine, the John G. McLean Professor at Harvard Business School, “Indeed, as the size and importance of corporations have increased, so has the general propensity to view their activities through a moral lens.” (See post)

Unfortunately, the world isn’t black and white, but rather it’s done in shades of gray based on the beliefs of people in a particular society and at a particular time.

Most social police, blogging, fashion, etc., started as one person with a specific set of forceful opinions and the skill to make them known to a wide audience from which, s/he amassed like-minded people who added their voices and built clout until they suddenly became the arbiters on that topic. This scenario applies equally in politics (think Hitler), religion (every religious leader throughout time), etc. But being the <?> police doesn’t make them “right.”

Even most judgmental words such as, right, wrong, good, bad, etc., have meanings that have changed at various times in history and in the same times, but in different societies and cultures, or even the same ones.

Universally, murder has always been considered bad, but what constitutes murder is ever changing.

The most we ever state is our own opinion, IMO in today’s lexicon, as I have done today and then hope that it is backed up by others who share it.

17 Responses to “Are ethical values set or fluid?”
  1. Brian ClarkNo Gravatar Says:

    Great commentary and questions, Miki. Some people say that the only difference between persuasion and manipulation is intent, but I actually believe that persuasion creates a win-win situation, and manipulation is one sided. That approach leaves no room for the “thought police” to get involved at all.

  2. KellyNo Gravatar Says:

    This is a great post with some really thought-provoking points.

    The stand-out:

    Universally, murder has always been considered bad, but what constitutes murder is ever changing.

    Brilliant!

  3. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Thanks, Brian. I’ve enjoyed many a bottle of wine during all night manipulation vs. intent debates and they were rousing good fun, but I’m afraid that we’d be on opposite sides. I define manipulation as the “ability to persuade people to do what you want them to do and, taken to its highest art form, think that it was their own idea.” With this definition, intent becomes everything, so I always add this caveat, “Manipulation is only acceptable if it does no harm to the people or organization and doesn’t scare the children and animals.”
    ********************
    Wow! Thanks, Kelly, that’s a great compliment, especially coming from you!

  4. Brian ClarkNo Gravatar Says:

    >>“Manipulation is only acceptable if it does no harm to the people or organization and doesn’t scare the children and animals.”

    And that’s the definition of a “win-win” if I’ve ever heard one. :)

    All action is taken because of the actor’s own idea and intention, no matter who provides the stimulus. Marketers try to give themselves too much credit. The only true marketing skill is in knowing what people want to do, and then providing the means for them to do it.

  5. RozNo Gravatar Says:

    Interesting discussion. Ethics is unlike many other leadership attributes in that genuinely consistent and true ethical behaviors tend to flow from an interior orientation rather than conscious efforts to follow external rules and guidelines.

    When we find a truly admirable leader of high character and ethics who inspires people to follow, it’s unlikely to be someone who simply keeps an eye on the rule book in order to extract as much territory as possible without stepping over. Instead, I think we find someone with a solid internal compass whose behavior is natural, intuitive and unforced.

    That’s why, in my view, words like “good”, “bad”, “right”, and “wrong” are too valuable to discard. “Goodness” is a rather intuitive attribute and difficult to measure. But it would be hard to deny that it describes something to which it’s worthwhile to aspire and from which ethical behavior and compelling leadership might flow.

    As I frequently tell clients, just because something is hard to measure or enforce, doesn’t mean it’s not important.

  6. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    “All action is taken because of the actor’s own idea and intention, no matter who provides the stimulus. Marketers try to give themselves too much credit. The only true marketing skill is in knowing what people want to do, and then providing the means for them to do it.”

    Ahh, but many times those actions would stay dormant forever without the stimulus, so there is a certain responsibility that goes with providing it.

    ““Goodness” is a rather intuitive attribute and difficult to measure. But it would be hard to deny that it describes something to which it’s worthwhile to aspire and from which ethical behavior and compelling leadership might flow.”

    “Goodness,” “high character” and all similar terms and subject to varying definitions, therefore they’re fluid.

    Yes, it comes from within, but the lens through which it’s viewed is external. Years ago, the US Supreme Court ruled that obscenity wasn’t an absolute, but was in the eye of the beholder; most people consider slavery in any form as evil, but it is still an accepted practice in some places; Jeff Skilling has never seen himself as bad, but there are thousands who consider him completely evil.

    Just as murder has always been bad, goodness has always be good, but the definition of each keeps changing.

  7. Influence isn’t always positive Says:

    […] few days ago I wrote that while ethical stances seem the same, the definitions change with the […]

  8. peteNo Gravatar Says:

    Having to be PC has stopped people speaking their mind, a shame.

  9. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    True, especially since covert attitudes are far more dangerous than overt ones. However, HAVING a PC encourages far more open interaction, comments and rants, although too many are anonymous.

  10. So you think you’re ethical… Says:

    […] years of business scandals and no end in site, ethics are a hot topic. Are ethical values set or fluid? explored the idea that ethics are situational and changing with the times.A new paper from Ann E. […]

  11. 123+ Top Business Stories of 2007 Says:

    […] outside of the box when it comes to leading and managing. She offers her top six posts here: http://www.mappingcompanysuccess.com/are-ethical-values-set-or-fluid/ http://www.mappingcompanysuccess.com/the-quandary-of-ethics/ […]

  12. Over 120 Top Business Stories of 2007 Says:

    […] outside of the box when it comes to leading and managing. She offers her top six posts here: Are Ethical Values Set or Fluid? The Quandry of Ethics The Effects of CEO Map The Number One World’s Best Motivator More on […]

  13. Business Channel - Business In Review Says:

    […] outside of the box when it comes to leading and managing. She offers her top six posts here: http://www.mappingcompanysuccess.com/are-ethical-values-set-or-fluid/ http://www.mappingcompanysuccess.com/the-quandary-of-ethics/ […]

  14. The greatest leadership WOW ever told Says:

    […] WOW, the adjectives that you hear most frequently these days are “authentic,” meaning real or genuine, and “servant” meaning it’s all about them—as opposed to […]

  15. Leader vs. manager 6/7 Says:

    […] it’s both meaningless and insulting. Ignoring the fact that ‘the right thing’ is situational, why is doing it strictly the purview of leaders? Does doing the wrong thing correctly make it […]

  16. Where does religion fit? Says:

    […] year in Are ethical values set or fluid? I said “Universally, murder has always been considered bad, but what constitutes murder is […]

  17. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] of the descriptions use words with no absolute meaning, sticking to my usual example, murder has always been considered wrong, but the definition of murder, even today, keeps changing […]

Leave a Reply

RSS2 Subscribe to
MAPping Company Success

Enter your Email
Powered by FeedBlitz

About Miki View Miki Saxon's profile on LinkedIn

About Ryan ryanrpew

About Marc marc-dorneles-cpcu-b8b43425

About KG View KG Charles-Harris' profile on LinkedIn

About Ajo View Ajo Fod's profile on LinkedIn

Clarify your exec summary, website, marketing collateral, etc.

Have a question or just want to chat @ no cost? Feel free to write or call me at 360.335.8054

Download useful assistance now.

Entrepreneurs face difficulties that are hard for most people to imagine, let alone understand. You can find anonymous help and connections that do understand at 7 cups of tea.

Give your mind a rest. Here are 2 quick ways to get rid of kinks, break a logjam or juice your creativity!

Crises never end.
$10 really does make a difference and you'll never miss it,
while $10 a month has exponential power.
Always donate what you can whenever you can.

The following accept cash and in-kind donations:

Web site development: NTR Lab
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.