Make an Ethical Difference

Tools for Better Action

Mark Pastin (Author)

Publication date: 10/16/2013

Make an Ethical Difference

Mark Pastin insists every one of us is qualified to resolve even the thorniest dilemmas ourselves, and in this profoundly practical book he gives us the tools to do just that.

  • Makes a compelling case that we all have an innate ethical sense that enables us to see and do the right thing
  • Offers six practical tools that will help readers develop this sense so they can make better leadership and management decisions
  • Show how to use the tools through examples from the author's decades of experience as a top advisor to businesses, governments and NGOs

We are plagued today by a decline in ethical behavior. Scandals come so thick and fast that any attempt to list them is out of date in weeks if not days. But ethics isn't just a matter of headlines; it's a part of everyone's life. We're called on to make ethical decisions, large and small, all the time. This can be particularly tricky in the workplace, where our decisions can affect not just ourselves but coworkers, clients, customers, even the entire company

Existing ethics books are of limited use . They generally feature one author's opinions on very specific situations, which may well have nothing to do with the problems we're facing. And anyway, we don't need expert advice. Mark Pastin insists every one of us is qualified to resolve even the thorniest dilemmas ourselves, and in this profoundly practical book he gives us the tools to do just that.

Pastin argues that we all have an innate ethical sense that enables us to make the right choice in any situation. He calls it "the ethics eye." The problem is, we're not aware we have it or how to develop it. So he provides practical tools we can use to open up our ethics eye so we can consistently see what is right and do it.

Making an Ethical Difference shows how to apply these tools using actual ethical dilemmas drawn from Pastin's decades of experience as an advisor to governments, corporations, and NGOs. The point is not to try to wedge your situation into one of the examples-it's to show how a tool that can be applied to any situation is used in one particular instance. And once you're reached a decision he offers strategies for building consensus with those who might disagree with you.

People often feel hopeless and skeptical that there is anything they as individuals can do to raise society's ethical level or resolve longstanding impasses. By using the unique tools in this book we will gain confidence in our innate ethical sense and take actions that will elevate the ethical level of the groups and organizations we belong to and society as a whole.

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Overview

Mark Pastin insists every one of us is qualified to resolve even the thorniest dilemmas ourselves, and in this profoundly practical book he gives us the tools to do just that.

  • Makes a compelling case that we all have an innate ethical sense that enables us to see and do the right thing
  • Offers six practical tools that will help readers develop this sense so they can make better leadership and management decisions
  • Show how to use the tools through examples from the author's decades of experience as a top advisor to businesses, governments and NGOs

We are plagued today by a decline in ethical behavior. Scandals come so thick and fast that any attempt to list them is out of date in weeks if not days. But ethics isn't just a matter of headlines; it's a part of everyone's life. We're called on to make ethical decisions, large and small, all the time. This can be particularly tricky in the workplace, where our decisions can affect not just ourselves but coworkers, clients, customers, even the entire company

Existing ethics books are of limited use . They generally feature one author's opinions on very specific situations, which may well have nothing to do with the problems we're facing. And anyway, we don't need expert advice. Mark Pastin insists every one of us is qualified to resolve even the thorniest dilemmas ourselves, and in this profoundly practical book he gives us the tools to do just that.

Pastin argues that we all have an innate ethical sense that enables us to make the right choice in any situation. He calls it "the ethics eye." The problem is, we're not aware we have it or how to develop it. So he provides practical tools we can use to open up our ethics eye so we can consistently see what is right and do it.

Making an Ethical Difference shows how to apply these tools using actual ethical dilemmas drawn from Pastin's decades of experience as an advisor to governments, corporations, and NGOs. The point is not to try to wedge your situation into one of the examples-it's to show how a tool that can be applied to any situation is used in one particular instance. And once you're reached a decision he offers strategies for building consensus with those who might disagree with you.

People often feel hopeless and skeptical that there is anything they as individuals can do to raise society's ethical level or resolve longstanding impasses. By using the unique tools in this book we will gain confidence in our innate ethical sense and take actions that will elevate the ethical level of the groups and organizations we belong to and society as a whole.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Mark Pastin

Chair and President of the Council of Ethical Organizations,Mark Pastinhas advised major corporations and government bodies worldwide since 1973. His book The Hard Problems of Management; Gaining the Ethics Edge (Jossey-Bass: 1986; NTT Publications-Japan: 1994) has won awards in the United States, Brazil, Australia and Japan. Dr. Pastin has authored over 100 articles and books.

The Council of Ethical Organizations was founded by Dr. Pastin and two associates in Washington, D.C. in 1980. Dr. Pastin also established the first academic ethics institute (the Lincoln Center for Ethics, 1982). The Council is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to practical approaches to ethics and compliance issues. The Council has provided services to major corporations and government bodies worldwide and also supports research on ethics and compliance issues through its Ethics Benchmark Resources program.

Dr. Pastin has advised corporations including Caterpillar, American Express, Medtronic, NYNEX, Blood Systems, Inc. Motorola, General Electric, Texas Instruments, Intel, Cadbury Schweppes, Allied Signal, J.P. Morgan, and GTE Telops. Dr. Pastin has served as advisor to both Houses of Congress and to state and federal agencies. U.S. agencies served include the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, and the National Science Foundation. Foreign governments and agencies include the European Community, the Federal Government of Brazil, Mexico (President's Commission on Housing), Australia, Hong Kong (Anti-Corruption Commission), the Republic of China, and the United Kingdom.

Dr. Pastin received his B.A. (summa cum laude) from the University of Pittsburgh and his Ph.D. from Harvard University (Lewis Award). He has served as faculty member and administrator at Indiana University, the University of Michigan, Harvard University, University of Maryland, and Arizona State University. Dr. Pastin has also served as Research Fellow of the Center for Metropolitan Planning and Research at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Pastin serves on several corporate and non-profit boards. He is recognized in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Finance and Industry and Who's Who in the World.

Learn more about Dr. Pastin.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction: Better Action

Chapter One: Know the Rules before You Play

Chapter Two: Navigating the Minefield of Interests

Chapter Three: The Ethics Eye

Chapter Four: Not in My Backyard

Chapter Five: Uncommon Sense

Chapter Six: Ethical Action Means Ethical Agreement

Chapter Seven: Yes, We Can Agree on Ethics

Chapter Eight: A Few Words about Big Issues

Chapter Nine: Ethics and Laws

Chapter Ten: Ethics-Based Healthcare Reform

Chapter Eleven: Move Forward with Confidence

Resources for Action

The Five Tools

The Convergence Process

Situations

Solutions

My Ethical Workplace: An Organizational Assessment Tool

Notes

Index

About the Author

Working with the Author

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Excerpt

Make an Ethical Difference

Introduction

Better Action

“How selfish soever man shall be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

—Adam Smith, 1759

Somewhere in corporate America, a discussion like this is occurring.

SITUATION #1 Less Is More

Ever since the upstart Greek yogurt companies Chobani and Fage came along, the big dogs in the yogurt industry have been hurting. For years, profits soared as they sold smaller and smaller containers of yogurt at ever higher prices. As soon as one company reduced the size of its yogurt containers, the other companies followed suit. As a bonus, they could claim to have reduced the number of calories per unit of their product, which was accomplished by making the portions smaller.

Today, one of the old-line yogurt companies is considering challenging the upstarts by introducing its own Greek yogurt at a lower price and with fewer calories. The trick is to fool consumers into thinking that its product is less expensive and less fattening simply by giving them less product per container. It worked before, so why not again? But someone in the room asks, “Is it right to compete by fooling our customers?” To which another person responds, “We never tricked anyone. We simply helped our customers do something they should do in any case, which is to control portion size.”

Whether it is yogurt or another product, discussions of this kind occur in business every day. Formulate the advice you would give to the old-line yogurt company. At the end of this chapter, you can compare your advice to the advice actually given. The tools introduced throughout this book will help you find the right path in just such situations.

Make an Ethical Difference is about having confidence that we can make sound ethical decisions—and that we can act on them. And it is about making ethical actions effective in the groups and organizations in which we participate.

When it comes to today’s ethical problems, it is up to us to do something about them. We do not trust our political, economic, religious, and social institutions to meet today’s ethical challenges. These institutions have served us for years, and they often served us well. As much as this is true, we sense that these institutions are not up to today’s ethical challenges. Just as a virus can evolve more rapidly than our immune systems, many of our problems, particularly those involving ethics, have evolved beyond the reach of our institutions. If our institutions cannot meet today’s ethical challenges, it is time for us to act as ethically concerned individuals and groups.

Many ethics books invite you to agree or disagree with the author, who is pretty sure about what other people should believe and do. This is not such a book. To benefit from Make an Ethical Difference you need not agree with me about any issue of public controversy. This book is about how to make ethical decisions and act on them. I am not going to tell you which decisions to make or how I, or anyone else, expect you to act.

Make an Ethical Difference is partly based on my experience as an ethics advisor to hundreds of organizations of every kind and size—and in some of the worst ethical situations of our time. From this experience, I have learned a lot about why people make poor ethical choices and how to stop this from happening. I have also learned the value of action over opinion. One thing that gives ethics a bad name is that ethical issues never seem to be resolved. Ethics often seems to be oriented more toward critiquing what has happened than toward influencing what will happen. In Make an Ethical Difference, our view is firmly forward on the future we can create through ethical action.

YOUR ETHICS SENSE

Make an Ethical Difference is built on a radical theme, which is that individuals have an innate ability to see what is right and do it. I sometimes call this innate ability to see what is right “the ethics eye,” and this book will help you recognize this ability in yourself. Once you acknowledge your native ability to see what is right, it is comparatively easy to sharpen this ability. Trusting your ability to see what is right will give you the confidence to take actions that make an ethical difference.

A basic question is, “If I have this innate ethics sense, why don’t other people agree with me?” In fact, if we have this innate ability, why are there broad, fight-to-the-death disagreements among religions, political ideologies, and whole societies about right and wrong?

It may seem like this is the knockout punch for the whole idea of an innate ethics sense, but it isn’t. The kinds of disagreements cited above exist in all branches of knowledge, including those based on the evidence of the five recognized senses. There are exactly analogous disagreements in physics, psychology, mathematics, and aesthetics. Would anyone argue that we cannot do physics because there are endless arguments about the basic components of matter?

Deep, recalcitrant disagreements are common to such fields as physics and astronomy. The disagreement between Copernicus and Ptolemy about the position of the Earth in the Universe was profound and not easily resolved. Because both viewpoints made the same predictions about the then observable movements of the planets, the eye—visible observation—seemed unable to decide between the theories. This disagreement did not lead us to distrust the human eye. Eventually, that selfsame human eye was able, with the use of more powerful instruments, to decisively support the Copernican viewpoint. In the same way, the tools provided in Make an Ethical Difference are designed to sharpen your ethics sense. They are instruments for sharpening your vision of right and wrong.

Some would point out that at least some scientific disputes are eventually settled—and in ethics nothing ever seems to get settled. But one of the reasons that some scientific disputes are settled is that we are willing to count them as settled. Some people still believe in astrology, which is a version of Ptolemaic astronomy. This does not lead us to conclude that the Earth might really be at the center of the Universe. In physics, there is dispute over whether the basic components of reality are waves or particles or strings or something else for that matter. We do not conclude that we will never settle anything in physics.

It is a theme of Make an Ethical Difference that the fact that people disagree about ethics does not show that we lack an ethics sense. It shows that ethical issues are as complex as the problems in other branches of knowledge. Once we understand the causes of ethical disagreements, we will be better able to settle them.

TOOLS FOR BETTER ACTION

One reason for today’s pessimism about ethics is that a decline in ethical expectations is a self-reinforcing, downward spiral. The lower my expectations of ethical conduct from others, the less likely I am to enter into relationships with them based on honesty and trust. Instead of shaking hands over a simple transaction, I will “lawyer up.” Others, in turn, have less reason to be honest with me and trust me, since my behavior toward them is cagey and untrusting. This downward spiral of expectations can only be reversed through focused action to break the cycle. Make an Ethical Difference is about just such action.

In order to take action to stop the downward ethics spiral, we need tools to sharpen our ethics sense. It is possible to learn to be an effective ethics change agent through the use of proven tools. These tools have been developed over a forty-year period and have been tested in many challenging situations. To build confidence in these tools, we apply them to situations in which an ethical action is required.

I believe that individuals can take constructive action on ethical issues. Sometimes it seems that issues are called “ethical” just to put them in a locked box labeled “insoluble.” This is a self-defeating way to think about ethics because it blocks all possible action. If you wonder where this kind of thinking leads, just take a look around. On the other hand, if you want to stop wringing your hands about ethical decline and do something about it, we have a journey together.

SITUATION #1 Less Is More (continued)

Here is the advice I gave to the old-line yogurt company.

“You got into this predicament by using trickery to increase profits—and it worked for quite a while. However, you also made yourself vulnerable to the upstart Greek yogurt companies and now you are paying the price. Even if you challenge the upstarts with more of the same trickery, there is no guarantee that you will succeed. Now that you have feisty competitors, they may reveal your strategy for what it is. You should at least match the quality and portions of the upstarts while working hard to out-market them. You are still the familiar brand and you have enormous advantages in commanding shelf space. This is the ethical way to compete, and it will also ensure that any customers you regain will stay loyal to you.”

As we gather tools in the coming pages, you will be able to see why I gave this advice and decide whether or not you agree with it.

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Endorsements

“I know no one who has accomplished more than Pastin across the entire operations of ethical behavior. Enjoy his book, embrace his vision, adhere to his basic values and we will be a more ethical society.”
—Joe Rocks, CEO, NHS Human Services

“Mark Pastin has written the only book on ethics that is worth reading.”
—Ian I. Mitroff, Professor Emeritus, Marshall School of Business, USC

“Pastin continues to take ethics to the next level using examples to make the book not only interesting but also actionable and pragmatic.”
—Tony Spezia, President and CEO, Covenant Health

“This book is a must-read for everyone who is involved in a leadership position at any level in an organization. An excellent ‘self-reflection' manual, it was a quick read that kept me engaged! Dr. Pastin's efforts should cause readers to step back and look at the culture of their entity and the moral compass direction they have set for themselves. Its practical application is self-evident.”
—Michael H. Covert, FACHE, President and CEO, Palomar Health, San Diego, California

“Look no further if you are truly interested in finding practical solutions for difficult and complex ethical problems affecting you within your organization! Dr. Mark Pastin has provided an easy-to-follow, practical approach to effectively deal with today's intricate, complex, and at times dilemmatic ethical situations. Speaking from decades of world-class academic and consultancy experience in ethics, his narrative style keeps your interests going and makes the reading seem more like a novel rather than a heavy-duty academic work.”
—Constant Cheng, Professor, George Mason University

“Dr. Pastin elegantly discusses modern ethics with a unique perspective that engages the reader with humor and real-life applicability. This is an exceptional exploration of ethical challenges faced in business along with a set of effective tools for overcoming them. A must-read for individuals looking to successfully navigate corporate America with integrity.”
—Debra Burock, PhD, CCP, Regional Director of Program Evaluation and Practice Development, NHS Human Services

Make an Ethical Difference delivers a clear and direct message: merely talking about honesty and integrity is not enough. Every one of us routinely faces ethical challenges, whether we recognize them as such or not. Dr. Pastin calls on his forty years of experience as an ethics advisor in this thought-provoking book that provides user-friendly, common-sense tools that have been tested and proven in many challenging situations. It is an invaluable guide to the leader who wants to make a lasting difference!”
—James Neal, Chief Compliance Officer, Millennium Laboratories

Make an Ethical Difference is an informative and enjoyable read! I will definitely be utilizing the principles/tools that were so thoroughly and creatively explained. The case scenarios were most appreciated as they provided realistic examples that anyone can relate to.”
—Amber King, Chief Human Resource Officer/Chief Compliance Officer, NorthCrest Medical Center

“Mark Pastin's book gives a variety of stimulating situational examples of some of the ethical issues that he has personally encountered in his international consulting work. He does not just point out the problem but gives a range of workable tools for everyday consideration as we all run into ethnically challenging situations. As a result of using these tools, we all might be better off as we develop our own ethics eye/ethics sense.”
—Daniel C. Brenenstuhl, Managing Director, International Business Seminars

“One quote from Mark Pastin's book rings true for all of us: ‘The problem in getting ethical conduct to surface in organizations is that people lack the confidence that if they do the right thing, they will succeed.'  With case studies and a solid easy-to-read style, Mark gives you the tools and confidence to ingrain ethical conduct in your organization.  I highly recommend this book for any C-suite executive.”
—Lâle White, CEO and Chairman, XIFIN, Inc.

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