Values and Ethical Decision Making
Organizational Values are a driving factor in how an organization makes decisions. Equally important to the decision making process is the ethics and values of individual employees. How well these two elements align can have a significant impact on the decisions that are made within in an organization.
An organization’s values are its principles and they govern how it operates from day to day. Organizational values create a shared identity for its employees (Collins & Porras, 1996). The core values of the Department of the Army are laid out in Field Manual (FM) 6-22. These core values are Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Services, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. Before becoming an employee of the Department of the Army, soldiers and civil servants are required to swear an oath to uphold and adhere to these core values.
The Army follows the DMAIC process for decision making and problem solving. The steps for the DMAIC process are to define opportunity, measure performances, analyze opportunity, improve performance and control performance. These steps are closely aligned with the Controlling method of decision making. The Controlling method phase of Establishing clear standards correlates to the DMAIC Define Opportunity phase. The Monitor and record performance step mirrors the DMAIC Measure performance phase. The Compare result against standards phase draws a parallel to the DMAIC Analyze opportunity phase. In the Controlling method, the next steps are to communicate results and if needed, take corrective action. They correlate to the Improve performance and the Control Performance phases of the DMAIC process.
An employee whose values are driven by character shares the core values of the Department of Defense. According to the Williams Institute Ethical Awareness Inventor, a character based employee is committed to good judgment, equal opportunity, quality performance, moral excellence, exemplary role modeling, sincerity and strong personal values.
Benefits of Shared Values
There are significant benefits of having shared values of both employer and employee. Two of the most notable are alignment and loyalty.
When an organization and an employee have shared values they will deal with dilemmas the same way or would be in alignment. Yuki, (2010) states, “A person with a strong moral self-identity is motivated to act in ways that are consistent with ethical values and beliefs” (P. 414). For example, if a manager at the DOD sees another employee stealing or cheating, the manager would have no conflict on the required action. Stealing and cheating are not examples of honor or integrity and would clearly conflict with a person who holds Character as a basis of value. The moral compass for both the manager and the company’s values is pointing in the same direction.
Another benefit of having shared values between employer and employee is loyalty. When an organization has a strong commitment to a set of guiding principles and values, it sends a clear message of what is expected and tolerated. People who are congruent to these same principals are more apt to be committed, loyal and have motivation.
(Reichheld, 1996), states “Work that is congruent with personal principles is a source of energy. Work that sacrifices personal principles drains personal energy. Organizations that offer people a fulfilling work experience that is based on core values provide a sense of pride.” He concludes that, “this pride is a powerful source of motivation and energy” (p.29).
Disadvantages of Shared Values
“I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that’s quite it; it’s more like jazz. There is more improvisation.” (Warren Bennis, 2011). Though there are significant benefits to having shared values of both employer and employee as previously discussed, there can also be weaknesses which can arise.
Leaders who are not capable of being diverse in their management styles can prove to be a liability to an organization. In order to view all sides of an argument, organizations need the ability and flexibility to solicit and analyze problems from different perspectives. “Weaknesses can prevent an organization from realizing its goals, competing successfully in the marketplace or earning its highest profits”. (Lesco, 2011). Decision making that is “orchestrated” may be a weakness and thus not yield the best results.
Employee loyalty can be an asset to a company’s decision making process, but it has a flip side. As Schrag, (2001) states:
There is a sense here of blind obedience. The so-called loyal agent argument asserts that the employee, by virtue of her employment, agrees to act solely as an agent of the organization’s interests, to work as directed, and to be loyal. That would suggest that the employee has a moral obligation of loyalty to do what the corporation asks even if it asks the employee to act unethically. (page 54)
A company with no moral compass may lead the loyal employee down an illegal or unethical path. A leader may allow or even encourage acts like stealing and other unethical behavior if it will benefit the company, for example corporate espionage.
Although anyone can make an important decision, not many people can make precise decisions. As a leader, it is extremely important for an organization to make decisions that will be the best for the company and the employees. One decision making process which is used within the Army is DMAIC. It is an important process that helps employees makes the right decision. DMAIC makes the most of the shareholder value by realizing the fastest rate of development in customer fulfillment. The Army believes DMAIC is important to core values which help the Army make great decisions.
As leaders, we must include our inner values when making a work related decision. Values are what keep the organization moving in the right direction. Decision making that includes values will be very progressive for the company. Synergy between the employee and the organization with regard to ethics and values lays the groundwork for a successful decision making process.
Bennis, Warren G. (2011). Where Leaders Are Made. Retrieved from http://towertoasters.net
Collins, J., & Porras, J. (1996). Building your company’s vision. Harvard Business Review, 74(5), 65-77.
Lesco, P. (2011). What are some organizational weaknesses? eHow, (), . Retrieved from http://www.ehow.cominfo_8088895_organizational-weaknesses.html
Mischel, W. (1968). Personality and Assessment. New York: Wiley
Reichheld, F, (1996). The Loyalty Effect. Bain& Company, Boston, MA
Schrag, B. (2001). THE MORAL SIGNIFICANCE OF EMPLOYEE LOYALTY. Business Ethics Quarterly, 11(1), 41-66.
United States (2006). Army Leadership Competent, Confident, and: Manual 6-22, Washington, DC: Headquarters, Dept. of the Army.
Yuki, G., (2010). Leadership in Organizations, (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.