Not long ago, I was asked to write for a product company’s sponsored campaign on another media outlet. After accepting the assignment, I realized that the product I was writing for was not something I would normally recommend. I was torn: What was the right thing to do? I risked losing the job, the money and the relationship with the media outlet if I went back on my original commitment, but I couldn’t imagine going against my beliefs to make money. It didn’t take me long to do what I knew in my heart was right: Honestly communicating to the media outlet how I felt and my viewpoint on the product.
Luckily, the media outlet I was working with deeply respected me and valued my sincerity and ethics, and everything worked out in the end. But more importantly, it felt good to have made the right decision and to see the benefit of doing so.
Life can hand us some difficult situations which can cause us to feel torn about making a decision that is the “right one” versus the “unethical one.” Further, when you are faced with a difficult situation, the right answer may not always be very popular. But, as the saying implies, the “right thing to do” is almost always the right thing to do. Next time you are confronted with an ethical dilemma, use these “tests” during the decision process and the ethical decision may become much more apparent:
- Can You Look Yourself in the Mirror?: You have to be able to live with yourself and your actions. If you know that you can wake up the next day and look yourself in the mirror and feel content with what you have done, you are making the right decision. If you think you’ll feel a little embarrassed, ashamed, unsure or regretful, then you are probably making a bad decision.
- Trust Your Gut: The old intuition tactic is tried and true. Very few of us lack a conscience or don’t carry guilt or remorse from doing something wrong or “unethical.” Healthy-minded human-beings have the ability to decipher right from wrong, and when something doesn’t sit well or seems questionable, it is most likely because intuition and the gut know better.
- The Grandmother Test: Whether or not we grew up knowing our grandparents, we all have a general belief that our elders are wiser and “know better.” We tend to want to please our family, show our best qualities and make them proud. When making a decision, think about whether your grandmother or a family member you respect would “approve.” If you think they would disapprove, there is a good chance it isn’t a good decision.
- Physical Test: When we make good decisions that are ethical, we are at peace. It is only when we make poor decisions which we know are unethical do we suffer physical stress. Some symptoms may be a sick stomach, a headache or even chest pains. Good decisions allow our minds and our bodies to relax.
- Sleep Test: Don’t ever estimate the ability to get a good night sleep. When we live ethically and feel good about how we live our lives and the choices we make, sleep is much easier. When we make bad choices, they keep us up at night. They eat away at us and they make it difficult to be at peace. Think about whether or not you will lie awake at night worrying about your decision. If you tense up just thinking about it, you probably have your answer!
How do you ensure your decisions are ethical? Have you had to make difficult or unpopular decisions?