Useful guide for navigating ethical pitfalls
Almost no-one sets out to do something embarrassing, wrong or illegal, but external forces and internal choices, alone or in combination, can lead there, according to C K Gunsalus in her book The Young Professional’s Survival Guide: From Cab Fares to Moral Snares. The book is a useful guide to ethics for its target audience of young professionals, but it is also useful for a professional at any stage of his or her career.
So how do you decide what to do when faced with an awkward ethical dilemma? You can do what most people do and make it up as you go along, but once you start to compromise and other people find out that you are willing to bend a bit, the pressure on you to make further compromises increases. The alternative approach is to decide beforehand how you will react, and what things you are and are not prepared to do.
Some of the wisdom contained in the book:
- Ethics, like life, consists of small acts done consistently over time.
- Ethics is not a luxury you can defer early in life and add on when you can afford to.
- However much you value integrity in the abstract, daily life will test it in ways you might not predict.
- Thinking deeply about your values and being able to articulate them will help you identify potential missteps that could trap you.
- Financial savings can give you the emotional and practical wherewithal to resist doing something that violates your standards, giving you an option to walk away without going hungry or homeless.
- Habits save your mental energy for making more important judgments.
The book provides advice on cultivating your reputation, creating energy, presenting a positive emotional attitude, sharing the glory, managing work relationships, dealing with toxic people, setting boundaries, different types of career pitfalls, avoiding temptation, facing up to difficult challenges, recognising and dealing with conflicts of interest, asking appropriate questions, creating scripts for dealing with awkward conversations, negotiation tactics, how to have a dispute professionally, and many similar subjects.
In my opinion this is a very useful book. While it does not force any particular set of ethical values on the reader, it does recommend a higher road than most professionals will be accustomed to taking. Most professionals will gain a great deal of benefit from reading the book carefully and devising a personal set of guidelines for responding to future ethical encounters.