BLIND SPOTS – ETHICAL DILEMMAS – PART ONE
By Zsolt Szalai - March 27., 2023.
Perhaps one of the most difficult and challenging areas of leadership in everyday life is ethical decision - making. The root of the difficulty lies in the fact that, while we can formulate value systems to be followed on a theoretical level, in practice we do not always recognize that we are facing a decision that pushes the boundaries of our accepted ethical principles. One of the basic thesis of Max H. Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunell's book Blind Spots suggests this: Organizational ethical solutions and attempts start from a fundamentally wrong assumption: people recognize an ethical dilemma when confronted with it. If the assumption is wrong, then only faulty practice can be built on it.
The authors name five distortions in the book that can lead to unethical decisions and actions: poorly formulated goals, motivated blindness, indirect blindness, slippery slope, and valuing outcomes over processes. In this article, poorly formulated goals and motivated blindness are explained, while the other three topics are discussed in the next article.
Most organizations, whatever their activities, organize their operations around well-defined objectives. The stated goals help to organize work, properly allocate resources and decide on the importance of a particular question or problem. However, it may be the case that a goal that seems good, pushes the organizational and the individual or group decisions of the people in the wrong direction, and unethical actions and decisions are made. For example, when customer service goals are mixed with revenue growth expectations, employees might be tempted to use unethical tools resulting is cheating customers.
Although from the outside, especially in annual reports or other documents introducing the organization, we can most often see a clear organizational structure that assumes transparent operation, in most organizations, in addition to the official structure, networks based on informal relationships are also present. Their operation and the flow of information are less transparent, even for those involved in them. However, it is precisely these threads that could allow an ethical transgression committed by a particular person or group to surface as soon as possible. The only question is whether it is in the interest of the one who sees it to speak the truth or to speak the truth without consequences is possible at all. If the opportunity is there, but the interest does not direct us in this direction, then consequently, we will be part of an unethical decision or practice. Of course, this is true not only for information circulating through
informal channels, but also for knowing something "ex officio" but not doing anything about it.
The biblical worldview ties absolute truth to the person of God, which thus appears as a measure above human society and can also be a constant and reliable measure of our ethical decision-making. The importance of this is demonstrated by the fact that even after the Exodus from Egypt, both the Ten Commandments and the Law that unfolded it speak clearly in terms of an absolute measure of honesty when discussing the desirable rules of operation of the nascent Israeli nation.
“Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.” (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)