Writing to Win: How to Survive Ethical Skirmishes in the Workplace
- Currency [value]
- Articulation [voice]
- Selling Power [promotion]
- Endurance [strength]
It involves giving your great ideas an honest and principled foundation based more on the good of all versus the good of one. In the hit medieval HBO series, A Game of Thrones, several warring noble houses repeatedly clash in their quest for the “iron throne.” They resort to the most questionable tactics to seize this great prize as their own. It is obvious that ethics and ethical behavior do not factor into their strategies. From that world to the business world in which you will likely find yourself, the great prize could be a corner office with a view, a dedicated administrative assistant, a six figure income, and an annual bonus with stock options.
Unlike the nobles in A Game of Thrones, you must stay within the ethical boundaries of ‘Corporate America.’ And staying within these boundaries means understanding the nature of ethical behavior. It doesn’t always boil down to the simple difference between ‘right and wrong.’ More often than not, you may find yourself in an ethical skirmish where the right thing to do may not be fitting, the wrong thing to do is not an option, and the in-between still leaves you with an uneasy feeling.
Surviving an ethical skirmish in the workplace requires a strong sense of self. What does this mean exactly? It’s simple. It’s when you realize it’s not about you all of the time. So forget the notion that a skirmish has to involve another party. The most challenging ethical skirmishes may be a conflict between ‘you’ and ‘you’ when trying to answer questions such as:
- Is sharing a good thing?
- Is taking responsibility a good thing?
- How much commitment should I show?
- Am I being truthful and honest?
What do these questions of ethical behavior have to do with persuasive business writing? The obvious. You must be able to communicate your ability to solve problems and improve processes in a fair and principled manner. And to do this, you must be able to survive ethical skirmishes in the workplace.
TWO BIG RULES OF SURVIVAL:
Rule #1 – Avoid the ‘Me-Condition’
Try not to base all of your ideas, choices, and decisions on personal interest. Self-interest can be a good thing, but it can also run contrary to other people’s best interest.
Rule #2 – Test Your Conclusions
When situation and circumstance come into play, it can be hard to avoid the ‘me-condition’ and come to the most ethical conclusion. So ask yourself three simple questions:
- How might this conclusion benefit me?
- How might this benefit hurt or help other people?
- In the long run, how might this conclusion contribute to the kind of person I ultimately want to be?
Remember, more often than not, you may find yourself in an ethical skirmish in which your character could be tried. And as I state in my book, it’s hard not to think of your own best interest first. Because of this, you should practice the rules of survival being fully aware you may be engaged in a clash of conscious in what I refer to as the ‘grey zone,’ a place where interpreting the difference between right and wrong behavior can be tested.
This guest blog, which is the first in a four-part series, was written by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., who is a faculty member in World Languages, Cultures, and Communications at Richland College in Dallas.
For a more expanded discussion on ethics and ethical behavior in the workplace, consult Dr. Murcherson’s book, The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets Results. (Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2013) 1-11.
*You can refer to the HBO series or the novel, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin for further description and discussion of the “iron throne.”