It is always interesting to have a conversation with someone and hear them talk about how ethical their organization is despite news to the contrary. The person will often describe how they have a detailed code of ethics and have mandatory ethics training. Statistics are then shared as to how the organization has not violated any laws or been found guilty of any wrong-doings. Usually charitable giving inevitably comes into the conversation.
For example, I remember talking with someone several years ago about the sexual abuse cases surfacing against the Catholic church. The other person replied, “okay, but look at all the good work the church does such as its schools and hospitals.” It as if a few good deeds expunges the culpability of the organization. I had a friend comment recently, even Hitler build the Autobahn. A drastic example and not a moral equivalent. However it does make the point.
Confusing Ethical with Legal
Organizational members are often challenged to reconcile what they know to be ethical concerns even though the letter of the law is being followed. We must not confuse ethical behavior with legal behavior. History is full of examples of unethical actions that at one time were perfectly legal.
Perhaps this challenge arises from the occurrence of cognitive dissonance. It can be difficult to come to terms with being a part of an organization that you know is not ethical and yet you go to work for them and accept compensation and a nice benefits package. We begin to rationalize that the organization must be good because no laws are being broken. We discount the evidence to the contrary of our behavior. Our beliefs begin to match our behavior to resolve the cognitive dissonance.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.” – Brene Brown
Are you Isolated From Reality?
Consequently, it is easy to become insulated inside an organization and begin to see the world through a different lens. This is a lens that can truly believe the organization is not what the external evidence indicates. Instead they see themselves and the organization as victims of overzealous detractors and jealous competitors. We must guard against falling into the trap of believing “alternative facts”.
Because of this possibility, it is necessary to take the time to step back and question our assumptions; to doubt our certainty. We must re-examine our mental models and have honest conversations, no matter how uncomfortable. Our personal values should be indelible and not able to be swayed by a paycheck or a convincing marketing campaign. The psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance is real.
What Illusions Do You Need to Shatter?
What illusions do you need to shatter? Have you taken the time to question your assumptions around your organization’s and your own behavior? What difficult conversations do you need to be engaging in?
If you find yourself pondering similar questions around what you and or your organization need to examine, connect with me here or find me on LinkedIn. I would love to explore how you and or your organization can experience life to the fullest and engage in positive, transformative change.