Are Behavior Standards Out of Control?

Standards of behavior, ethics, and public benefit are critical issues today that receive little attention. Much of the challenge is confusion and uncertainty regarding what is ethical behavior and what are the trade-offs. For example:

  • How does one balance safety, pricing, and efficiency?
  • When is behavior appropriate, need support or improper?
  • What is the balance in organizations between profit and public good?
  • Do we understand and evaluate improper behavior?

While much of the discussion is about right and wrong, I argue balancing issues should be the main focus. One critical issue is parameters. How do you balance informal networks with formal processes in places like schools, corporations, politics and legal activities. We know mentoring, collaboration, and support are great tools for resolving challenges. However, we also need to obey laws, maintain a safe environment, not bully and avoid lying. In addition, we need to understand the costs and benefits of different actions. Building standards, police presence, domestic violence, crime require different processes and criteria.

As a very simple guideline, Walt Disney comes pretty close:” Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” The importance of balance should also be noted because Disney is also known for some unethical behavior.

Some recent examples from varying venues of disrupting a proper balance illustrate the need for more consideration:

The Memphis Police and other departments developed special programs to have more police to better reduce crime. However, they reduced recruitment criteria and training which accelerated unlawful behavior by police.

Railroad safety laws have been relaxed which has increased the potential for more dangerous accidents as occurred in Ohio.

Bullying, mental health, drugs, racism and harassment are examples of behavior that are frequently passed over and result in unacceptable consequences. Bullying can result in lots of depressing behavior including even suicide. These behaviors need more focus, evaluations and solutions. They are complicated and need consideration of the short- and long-term evaluations and solutions

There are some clear efforts that can help understand balancing the issues:

I believe one of the most important is identifying and criticizing enablers. Crime, lying, harassment, ignoring accepted rules and processes are wrong and should be addressed.

A major barrier to solutions is the rule of “cognitive dissonance, “We simply have a perspective that inhibits accepting alternative scenarios. Politicians, optimistic financial managers and sports fans are obvious examples. In general, if you ask people to rate themselves on a 1-100 % rating, a vast majority will rank themselves at the higher levels.

Denial is another issue that inhibits evaluating proper behavior. When we are trying to pursue a goal denying competition and alternatives are common barriers. For example, ignoring competitive strengths of others is a common experience. Health and fitness practices, especially for diabetics like myself, is another area where we frequently avoid the obvious.   

The most important consideration of proper behavior is probably just its consideration. Are you thinking about what’s right or just following the easiest or seemingly most beneficial solution? 

Related: Are You Prioritizing Innovation Over Skill?