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Let's take a look at a few ethical decision making examples, to give you a better understanding of how to act if anything like this happens to you. It might seem like a good idea to tell your boss your team is on-track, and then work quietly to make sure that becomes a reality, but in the long-run this will only hurt you and your team. First, if you don't examine why your team missed the deadline, you won't know how to fix the problem moving forward. Additionally, your boss is meant to be a helpful resource for you, and could help you combat the issue.

Lying could destroy your reputation as a leader and employee if your team or boss finds out, and it will be difficult to then prove your integrity. Figure out the guidelines or steps you need to take, and follow those.

Ethical Decision Making Models and 6 Steps of Ethical Decision Making Process

It makes sense -- family is important, after all. But it's not fair or ethical if some of your customers are receiving discounts simply because of who they are, and can even be seen as a form of discrimination. If the public finds out you don't follow fair rules when it comes to pricing and discounts, your entire company's integrity is at risk. Either mention to your coworker that you don't feel it's fair, or report the issue to your team leader. You've worked so hard to form a relationship with your client and provide them with persuasive and helpful information, and you've finally reached the end.

Just when they're ready to sign the deal, though, your coworker takes a look at your slides and lets you know some of the information is outdated and is no longer applicable to the deal. It's especially difficult because your job relies on you hitting quotas, and you know your boss and team will be incredibly impressed with this deal when you close it.

Unfortunately, you could get into legal trouble for lying in a contract, and you don't want to set a precedent of lying and essentially stealing from clients to close deals. Be upfront and own up to the misinformation, and then work with the client to create a new deal. Ideally, the client will appreciate your honesty. If not, at least you didn't win a deal through false measures, which might've gotten you into bigger trouble down the road.

Using the PLUS model and these six steps, as well as your own judgment and the opinions of your team, should arm you with all the information you need to make ethical decisions at work even when they're difficult. Originally published Aug 21, AM, updated August 22 Contact Us.

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Written by Caroline Forsey cforsey1. Ethical Decision Making Ethical decision making is the process in which you aim to make your decisions in line with a code of ethics. The ethical leader must embrace subordinates as valuable and important to the organization and its success. In order to create the I-Thou dialogue and relationship, the leader must treat subordinates with trust and respect. This requires honesty in saying what needs to be said. Whilst ethical leader never wants to intentionally hurt anyone, the leader should not sugar-coat things either. As a leader, you must also place the interests of the organization before your own self-interest.

Communication and collaboration are the cornerstones of ethical leadership. An ethical leader must set up proper communication channels to allow feedback to fly in both directions. With proper communication comes less rumors, suspicion and ultimately resentment, as people can be more aware of what is happening around them. Creating an open culture and one that enforces explanations will help build more trust and respect among the theme.

In order to have proper communication, you should improve your overall communication skills. This includes understanding the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication and to strive for clarity in expression. In addition to communication, you want to pay attention to collaboration. Collaboration means asking for ideas and channeling power to other people. If you allow people to take the lead and you trust their ability to make good choices, you will gain further respect.

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Leaders must be competent and knowledgeable, as this is the main reason they are trusted in the first place. Ethical leaders should be striving to increase their competence and to enhance their own skillset — just as they should expect the subordinates do. In part, this might require you to admit your shortcomings. You should forget about the notion that showing imperfections is a sign of weakness, and instead celebrate your ability to admit you need help.

Delegating is not a dirty word in ethical leadership. You should never accept responsibilities or tasks as a leader you are not competent in doing.

Ethical Leadership

Furthermore, you need to continuously educate yourself and discuss the industry and the leadership position with other leaders. You want to enhance your understanding of the organization and everything relating to the industry, but also improve your ability to be ethical and to lead other people. Rather you need to be constantly prepared to re-examine and re-evaluate your own behavior and the ethical framework you adhere to. Consider your values and ethics regularly and allow yourself to be challenged.

Ethical leadership has been closely scrutinized, perhaps because of its nature to focus on such grandiose concepts such as ethics. While it has a number of tangible advantages, the leadership theory is not always the best approach to solving organizational problems.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of ethical leadership is how it leads to better rates of job satisfaction, which in turn improves employee commitment. In the study, Walumbwa and Schaubroeck found employees under ethical leadership to be less likely to leave the job and overall, the employees were more happy and helpful.

Ethical Decision Making

Each individual is treated with respect and the work they do is appreciated. Furthermore, since ethical leaders lead by example, the helpful behavior is likely to spread across the organization. Ethical leaders shape the organization and therefore, the organization will attract people whose own moral and ethical framework is similar to that of the leader and the organization. In fact, David Mayer et al found in a study published in that ethical leadership reduces unethical behavior in subordinates.

Therefore, the leadership theory has a powerful impact across the whole society. The strong ethical framework and leadership example can also help ensure employees report on problems quicker. Ethical leadership can also provide an additional collaborative benefit to an organization.

Ethical companies also collaborate with other organizations that share the same ethical framework.


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The open approach to dealing with other organizations and being a trustworthy partner can boost innovation within the organization. Overall, the leadership model can reduce business liability and prevent costly errors within the organization. Employees, who marked their CEOs higher for character qualities, saw the organization have an average return on assets of 9.

An Empirical Approach to an Ethical Decision-Making Model

This was almost five times the average return of the organizations with lower character ratings. Despite the positive elements ethical leadership can provide to an organization, it arguable can cause issues as well. The different ethical frameworks can cause tension within an organization and therefore, certain people might not find the environment pleasant or welcoming.

In a way, ethical leadership has charismatic leadership tendencies, which means people might be following the leader without a critical approach. For an organization, a blue-eyed approach to following the leader can be devastating in terms of making the right decisions.

Ethics are difficult and upholding high ethical standards at all times can be extremely complicated.

The so-called grey areas are more than likely to arise and cause issues. The problem for organization is upholding ethics while trying to maintain a positive bottom line. In certain situations, such as keeping up with regulations, the costs can go up and therefore make ethical leadership financially harmful for the business. The downsides in terms of finances tend to be short-term, but the short-term impact can be crucial for new companies, for example.

With ethical leadership, organizations are going to have to pay more attention to policies. Clarity is paramount for the leadership model and this can mean the need for clear and coherent policies, rules and regulations. The more detailed the policies, the easier it is to guarantee proper ethical standards are upheld.

But this can mean plenty of extra work, especially at the start. The rigorous clarity and consistency could be challenging, especially for smaller organizations. Finally, as eluded above, the requirements for consistency could act as a drawback. Ethical leadership can be difficult to maintain, but if you step out of the framework once, you can damage the respect earned with your subordinates and other stakeholders.

Claiming to be an ethical leader and not acting in an ethical manner could be worse than following another framework but implementing ethical behaviors in occasionally. Through these examples you can see how ethical leadership works in practice and perhaps notice better the advantages and disadvantages it entails.

Complete Guide to Ethics Management: An Ethics Toolkit for Managers

James Burke is often one of the first examples of ethical leader people give and when you understand the story, you understand why. He went even further than that. He allowed the media to follow company meetings, he spoke on several occasions on TV and he introduced new protections to the way the organization packaged its products.

Tony Hsieh has achieved meteoric success with his online shoe retailer Zappos. The organization started in and turned the retailer market upside down. David Henderson interviewed Hsieh for his book Making News in the Digital Era and the ethical revolutionary pointed out two important parts of leadership. Second, Zappos has tried to create a company culture on core values. The most important thing in any large organization is alignment [around values and vision]. Schultz wanted to ensure all employees receive access to healthcare, even if they work part-time for the organization.

The coffee is sourced ethically and there is emphasis on sustainability throughout the business, from choosing business partners to providing the service to customers. Schultz has been recognized for understanding that great customer service starts from happy employees. Through ethical leadership, he has been able to inspire employees to serve better. Interestingly, Starbucks is also a good example of the scrutiny ethical leadership brings about. Because the company has set such high standards to itself, protesters regularly point out to any problems the company might have in meeting its targets.