Being an Ethics Practitioner

Whenever I tell people that I’m in the ethics business, they immediately reply, “You must be very busy these days!”

But the unethical folk we see on the nightly news and in the daily paper rarely ask me for help.  (If they did, I would have to tell them that an ethics program could certainly help them avoid their NEXT crisis, but not much can be assembled quickly enough to help them with THIS one.)

Most of the folks I work with are already looking for continuous improvement of their organizational culture, they want to learn more about avoiding a variety of risks.

Clearly, the folk who need my services the most are the least likely to request them. This is a dilemma that practitioners have been facing for a long time.  Sometimes we say that sound ethics is simply part of good leadership. But what if the leader doesn’t get it?

Many of our American cousins see the answer in the law – they are busy legislating ethics and trying to force good behaviour. But the law is a blunt instrument, good for setting the minimum bar – thou shalt not steal.

The law is not very effective when it comes to setting out ethical aspirations, and providing positive motivation. And that’s what you need in the workplace. That’s what managers and employees, clients and suppliers, and even the public at large, deserve.

So we labour on, helping where we can, and looking for better ways to get our message across to the unethical players.  Suggestions welcome!


EPAC - Ethics Practitioners’ Association of Canada | APEC - Association des praticiens en éthique du Canada

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