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FOSTERING PROFESSIONAL MORAL COURAGE

Speaking up to authority is not easy: it requires considerable courage (Milliken et al., 2003). Bocchiaro, Zimbardo, and Van Lange (2012) con- ducted a laboratory experiment which confirmed this: most people will not speak up to legitimate authority, regardless of their own personal values or feelings about wrongdoing. Only a very few of Bocchiaro et al.'s partici- pants (14 per cent) refused to obey the unfair demands of the experimenter, and fewer still (9 per cent) reported the perceived misconduct to authorities. Both the noncompliant groups believed that it was more important to be obedient to the higher authority of their own internalized moral standards (moral compass) than to the external authority figure who conducted the laboratory experiment. These findings convinced the researchers that 'behaving in a moral manner is challenging …[and] so difficult that … both disobedience and whistleblowing can be seen as noble and courageous acts' (Bocchiaro et al., 2012, p. 46).

Since speaking up to authority requires moral courage, management

would be wise to invest in training to build professional moral courage (PMC) (e.g. Sekerka, McCarthy, & Bagozzi, 2011). Professional moral courage is an applied capability consisting of four core personal skills that Sekerka et al. (2011) term 'moral muscles':

• Emotional signalling: mindfulness of inner emotional cues about unethi- cal circumstances, such as agitation, confusion or fear.

• Reflective pause: taking time out to consider the cause of emotions, iden-

tifying ethical issues and discerning options.

• Self-regulation: controlling the timing and type of action.

• Moral preparation: practice in thinking through ethical challenges. Exerting professional moral courage may be difficult, but 'morality is a muscle that can be exercised, trained and toned' (Sekerka & Godwin, 2010,

p. 64). Training can assist employees to develop the fortitude to go beyond

compliance to do what is considered morally right, despite the personal risk (Sekerka, Bagozzi, & Charnigo, 2009). Sekerka and her colleagues have developed a training technique known as Balanced Experiential Inquiry (BEI) to build core moral competencies which aid effective ethical decision-making (see Sekerka, Godwin, & Charnigo, 2012). Their technique involves creating a face-to-face interactive learning community of peers and managers. Employees discuss their own workplace experiences, which heightens training salience. Through dialogue, discovery and personal reflection on their own and their peers' ethical challenges, participants iden- tify the enablers and barriers to moral action, and explore the dimensions of their successful or failed actions (Sekerka & Godwin, 2010). This interac- tive learning experience builds employees' individual moral awareness and allows them to practise the skill of moral preparation and cognitive rehear- sal for appropriate handling of future ethical dilemmas.

Like any skill, professional moral courage requires ongoing mainte- nance to ensure it can be readily accessed when needed. Such skills need to be regularly reinforced so that employees are well prepared in advance to respond with moral integrity. To facilitate training transfer, managers can embed the BEI method in their daily operational routines (Sekerka et al., 2012) so that discussions around ethical issues occur naturally, either in team meetings or individually, enabling managers and peers to provide real time coaching, feedback and support. Regular team discussions pro- vide observational learning experiences for others and help to sustain a group mindset that endorses and supports ethical strength, especially in speaking up about wrongdoing, so that 'transparency, reflection, and dia- log can become normal features of everyday task operations' (Sekerka, 2009, p. 92). KPMG has enacted a similar process called 'conversation touch points' where employees are encouraged to seek support through discussing specific ethical problems with a colleague or manager (Flynn, 2007).

 
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