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December 9, 2015

How to Base Ethical Decisions?

In October 2014 I facilitated a workshop on Cross-Cultural Business Ethics at Monroe Community College to a class of aspiring small business owners entitled, "Entrepreneurial Studies." In this workshop, we discussed ethics in the workplace and how to handle ethical dilemmas especially between diverse cultures in the global workplace. 

While preparing for this interactive session, I found guidelines for thinking ethically on various college websites, including this one at Santa Clara University. The way I understand this page is that ethics stands alone, being divorced from society, culture, law, and other benchmarks humans use as a basis to make decisions. 

Specifically, the page claims that ethics is not: 

  • Feelings
  • Religion
  • Law
  • Culturally Accepted Norms
  • Science 
While I can agree that ethics should not be clouded by feelings, I do not agree that is not clouded by our religion, the law or the culture in which we live. I do not have enough information on how science impacts ethical decisions to comment on that. I often wonder if these guidelines were formed by someone who has not lived, worked or studied outside one particular culture their entire lives. I know, for instance, if I had only been exposed to American culture (one culture) my whole life, I may believe these guidelines blindly. Living, studying and working in a completely different culture such as India has made me realize that these guidelines can't be divorced from ethics. For many of us, we will use guidelines from these backgrounds to decide if something is ethical or not. And if we are not ethical, eventually we will end up in trouble with our religion, culture, family or legal system. So, how can these principles not be tied up in ethics? 

While this is a deep topic that can be debated for hours on end, we instead focused on watching a few short videos on ethical situations, and followed it with a case study. To debrief the case study, the class of 35 was divided into 5 groups and asked to discuss the case study and give their impressions on how to solve the dilemma. Below, I will share the videos used in the class. If you are interested in discussing this topic further through training sessions or one on one coaching, contact me for further information. 

Ethical Dilemmas at Work, with an American Twist. How do you rate yourself?

Ethical Dilemmas with a comical twist, as presented through the comedy, The Office.

Jennifer Kumar provides interactive workshops for aspiring college students, with a focus on college to corporate (C2C) programs. Additionally, business ethics sessions have been delivered as part of American cross-cultural business training programs. Learn more or contact us to reserve a spot for your class or group today. 

Related Posts: 
How to make a good decision  

Image credit: Sepehr Ehsani (creative commons, flickr)
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Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.