Ethics Class Studying

Here are my notes for my MBA Ethics class at UW. Be an ethical leader and when in doubt, reach out to unbiased friends for support.

Lecture 1

  • What is Ethics?
    • Ethics are standards of right and wrong that prescribe how we ought to act.
  • Ethical leader = Moral Person + Moral Manager
  • Moral Person: Holds to values, Tries to be honest, fair, and trustworthy
  • Moral Manager: recognizes and deals with ethical dimension at work, discusses ethical issues w/ colleagues, rewards ethical behavior and disciplines unethical behavior
  • 4 skills to be an ethical leader: Awareness, Objectivity, Voice, Connection
    • Awareness: recognize issues
    • Objectivity: Be objective, avoid bias
    • Voice: Take action
    • Connection: Influence others

Lecture 2

  • Automatic: identify alternatives, make a decision, justify
  • Manual: identify alternatives, use strategies to evaluate, make a decision
  • Consequentialism: examine the net consequences of our actions,  greatest good for greatest number
    • What type of outcome deserve my attention?
    • What are the consequences for each group?
    • How do short-term consequences compare against long-term consequences?
  • Deontology: examine our obligations, standards of conduct must be adhered to on principle, regardless of consequence, duties and obligations
    • The law, others’ rights, our personal values
    • The golden rule
    • Respect rights, fairness, dignity, transparency, and reliability
    • What laws, regulations, and personal standards must I adhere to?
    • Am I protecting others’ rights, dignity, and ability to choose?
    • Would I be willing to be on the other party in this transaction?
  • Virtue Ethics: asks us what kind of person we strive to be and if our actions are moving toward that goal
    • Compassion/just/honest/humble/loyal/kind
    • Does this decision align with my personal ethics?
    • Who am I? What kind of person does this action make me?
    • How would I feel about my reasoning and decision ended up in the news?
    • Would I be comfortable telling my friends and family about my decision?

Lecture 3

  • Allocating scarce resources
    • Requires clear identification of value prop to effectively and efficiently allocate scarce resources
    • Requires coherent explanation for your decision in terms of those values
  • Advocacy effect
    • tendency to have more positive attitude toward person for who you are advocating versus others
    • emotional explanation: empathy for subject
    • Evidence-based explanation: convince yourself as you convince others
    • we tend to change the criteria used to make evaluations

Lecture 4

  • Moral Disengagement: a set of strategies we use to help us se morally questionable actions as acceptable. Made of 3 major strategies:
    • Restructuring behavior to appear less wrong
      • Moral justification – Reframing unethical acts beings in the service of greater good
      • Euphemistic label – Using sanitized language to rename harmful actions so they seem less benign
      • Advantageous comparison – Making a behavior seem innocuous by comparing to a worse behavior
    • Minimizing victims’ distress
      • Distortion of consequences – Minimizing the seriousness of the effects of one’s actions
      • Dehumanization – Arguing that the victims of an unethical action don’t deserve basic human consideration
    • Obscuring moral agency
      • Displacement of responsibility – ceding responsibility to another
      • Diffusion of responsibility – Ceding responsibility to an entire group
      • Attribution of blame – blaming victims for what befalls them
    • 2 ways to mitigate risk
      • The reversibility strategy – imagine if you were the other party, see how self-interest is clouding your judgment
      • The lifetime strategy – get a fresh perspective from people you trust, since they are removed, they won’t have the self-interest clouding their judgment and won’t have same motives to disengage as you do
    • We are all susceptible to disengagement

Lecture 5

  • Knowing ethics, knowing the rules and theories, is not enough. Taking action is what matters. There is often a decision-action gap where people know what to do but cannot do it/don’t do it/don’t know how to do it. We need to focus on building the competence, confidence, and commitment to take action.
  • Analyzing ethical issues is not enough. Taking action – developing scripts and implementation plans for acting the way you act, overcoming resistances is what matters
  • Build the skills, confidence, and habit of voicing your values
  • Giving value to voices focuses on how we have enact the values we already know
  • Greater self-knowledge helps anticipate responses to value conflicts but internal awareness is not enough, need to consider external mechanisms to protect from weaknesses
  • Recognize that you have a choice
    • Talk to allies
    • Push past discomfort
    • Check assumptions
  • Expect ethical challenges at work
  • Know your style
  • Anticipate resistances and rationalizations
    • False dichotomy
    • Expected or standard practice/diffusion of responsibility
    • Materiality/distortion of consequences
    • Locus of responsibility/displacement of responsibility
    • Locus of loyalty/moral justification
  • Develop scripts

Lecture 6

  • Fend off rationalizations
  • Be able to recognize the rationalization and evaluate it
  • Consider expected or standard practice, materiality, responsibility, loyalty
  • Levers for response:
    • Help them do the right thing
    • Focus on the wider purpose
    • Question assumed path to success
    • Point out addictive cycle
    • Call out exaggerations
  • Sherry Hunt
    • Flawed data
    • Flawed incentive system
    • Get it done culture
    • Massive workload
    • Cost cutting
    • Management instability
    • Mistreated of whistleblowers
    • Lax oversight
  • Whistleblowers
    • Take them seriously
    • Treat with respect
    • No retaliation
    • If in-house is hostile, they’ll go outside

Lecture 7/8

  • Conflicts of Interest: a situation that has the potential to undermine a person’s impartiality because of a clash between self-interest and one’s professional responsibilities
  • Disclosure doesn’t increase the tendency to act fairly
  • Disclosure does increase the tendency to fix COIs
  • COI Pitfalls:
    • Failing to recognize the conflict
    • Pretending the conflict doesn’t exist
    • Assuming the disclosure is enough
    • Telling yourself you can be objective
  • Before it happens: Know the rules
  • When something happens: Remove yourself and others
  • If not: Identify who needs to know the details
  • When you act: use a non-bias sounding board
  • Challenge:
    • Ambiguity
    • COIs
    • Slippery slope: gradual loosening of standards
    • Misdirection: Ignoring
    • Indirect harm: distance from your actions and the harm they cause

Lecture 9 – Cross-cultural Ethics

  • Workplace and Legal guidelines
    • Pretexting – seeking out sensitive information under false pretense
    • Dumpster diving – obtaining information after it’s thrown away
    • IP theft – Disseminating IP of a previous employer
  • Ethics is dependent on local norms
  • Different groups have different values, be cautious in using universal standards to judge “right” or “wrong”
  • The relativist approach – “emphasize cultural sensitivity”
    • Pro: gives valuable insight into local norms, promotes cultural sensitivity
    • Con: breaks down when conflict with fundamental moral principal
  • The universalist approach – “universal standard that should be followed/hypernorms”
    • Care/harm moral foundation
      • It is moral to alleviate suffering and never harm others
      • It is moral to be caring/kind/compassionate
    • Fairness/cheating moral foundation
      • It is moral to treat others equally and never cheat
      • It is moral to be fair and just
    • Pro: Look beyond local norms, provides guidance when cultures conflict
    • Con: Mislabels diversity as immorality
  • UN Global Compact – Human rights, Anti-corruption, Labor, Environment
  • Facilitating payments/bribery/corruption
    • Build the cost of avoiding bribery into business projections
    • Assess regional risk and audit local partners’ actions
    • Recalibrate performance targets and compensation
  • Don’t use relativism as an excuse / be wary of normalization and rationalization

Lecture 10: Managing Stress

  • Stress is a state that occurs when we perceive events in our environment to be taxing or exceeding our capacity to deal with them
    • Stressors are things that cause stress
    • Strain refers to the psychological, physiological, and behavioral consequences of stress
      • Psychological – miss impt info, become intolerant of ambiguity, consult others less, overestimate how fast time is passing
      • Physiological – immune response, coronary disease, viral infection
  • Challenge stressor: circumstances that are associated with the potential for rewards and growth – eustress (energizing stress)
  • Hindrance stressor: circumstances that hinder your ability for gain or growth (distress)
  • People are more ethical in the morning when they are not depleted
  • Leaders abuse employees when stressed
    • Ridicule
    • Denigrating
    • Invasion of privacy
    • Breaks promises
    • Lies
  • 4 categories of stressors
    • Time – use your time more effectively
      • We like to do what we like before we don’t
      • We like to do easy things before hard
      • We like to do scheduled before unscheduled
      • We respond to others demands before ourselves
    • Encounter: A person is a stressor
      • Is it temporary or long-term?
      • Don’t justify and habituate
      • Go to 3rd party in power
      • Eliminate contact
      • Focus on yourself
      • Quit
      • If you are the manager and the stressor is the employee, find bright spots and connect on those, give reputational feedback, link selflessness to their personal goals
    • Situational: Work is stressful because your job isn’t designed to fit your needs and values. Job satisfaction characteristics
      • Skill variety
      • Task identity
      • Task significance
      • Autonomy
      • Feedback
      • Job stressors: commute, bad environment, poor conditions
      • Formal job design and job crafting
      • Job crafting
        • Task crafting – redesign what you do every day
        • Relational crafting – redesign your relationships
        • Cognitive crafting – redesign the way you think about your work
    • Anticipatory – stress from fear and threat about what is going to happen in the future
      • Label the cause of your worry
      • Examine how true your negative appraisal is
      • Consider what you can and cannot do
      • Develop an action plan
  • 2 categories of coping strategies
    • Problem-focusing coping strategies
    • Emotion-focused coping strategies
  • Is the task at hand important or urgent?
  • Attention management
  • 3 levels of attention
    • Proactive attention – fully focused, in the zone
    • Active attention – easily distracted, sloppy
    • Inactive attention – no brainpower, unable to do difficult tasks
  • Tips
    • Schedule work based on attention level
    • Protect from interruptions and distractions
    • Remove distractions/maintain good sleep/eat well

Lecture 11:  Employment Contracts

  • Hiring and calling a reference – have them choose 1 of 2 undesirable qualities
  • Two types of weaknesses
    • Areas where we lack strength
    • Areas where we overuse strengths
  • Giving Feedback – Best Practices
    • Ask if the person wants feedback
    • Explain why you’re giving feedback
    • Take yourself off pedestal and tell how you’ve benefited from negative feedback
  • Employment at Will – employment can be ended by employer or employee without any notice and for any reason
  • Yellow dog contracts are not allowed, Employees can join unions
  • You can’t fire an employee for complying with public policy (jury duty, worker’s comp)
  • Employers can’t violate implied contracts (promise not to be fired if performance target is hit)
  • Covenant of good faith and fair dealing (employers can’t violate a covenant of good faith)
  • Civil Rights Act, Age discrimination act, pregnancy act, disabilities act
  • Legal: Ask employees to be respectful in social media, prohibit employees from speaking poorly about the company on behalf of the employer, ask employees to be honest, prohibit retaliation, prohibit social media use on company time
  • Illegal: any language that infringes on employees’ rights to engage in protected activity
  • Unauthorized and outside interviews
  • What is the purpose of business?
    • Shareholder model – 1970’s, Milton Friedman was a turning point
    • Stakeholder model – 20th century, a balanced approach was standard
      • Justified in 3 ways
        • Descriptive – org engages with all different stakeholders
        • Instrumental – org engages with stakeholders effectively will be more successful
        • Normative – morally right to engage with all stakeholders
      • 3 dimensions of stakeholder salience
        • Power – they can get company to act
        • Legitimacy – link to company is socially accepted
        • Urgency – calling for immediate attention
      • Types of stakeholders
        • Dormant stakeholder
        • Discretionary stakeholder
        • Demanding stakeholder
        • Dominant stakeholder
        • Dangerous stakeholder
        • Dependent stakeholder
        • Definitive stakeholder

Lecture 12: Diversity

  • What is diversity? Awareness of the problem. Examine best practices. Determine what works.
  • Diversity: Any attribute used to identify another person as different
    • Benefits: More creativity and innovation, More adaptability, Less groupthink
    • Challenges: discrimination, conflict, turnover
  • Surface-level diversity: age, race, gender
  • Deel-level diversity: religion, political beliefs, personality
  • Stereotypes: assumptions we make about people on the basis of groups they belong to
    • Not just about expecting different people to act differently
    • Interpreting the same actions differently
  • Discrimination: Prejudiced treatment of a person on the basis of the group they belong to and stereotypes about the group
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • States that workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin is illegal
    • Created the EEOC – all companies with 15+ employees must report number of women and minority employees to the EEOC annually, employees can file discrimination charges with the EEOC
  • Disparate treatment: discrimination basis on race, color, religion, sex, national origin
  • Disparate impact: discrimination caused by policies that apply to everyone but seem neutral but disadvantage protected groups when applied
  • 80% rule – Protected class applicants must be hired at least 80% as often as other applicants
    • Exception – companies can defend disparate impact if they can show their hiring practices relate to job performance
    • bona fide occupational qualification defense
  • How sponsorship impacts job satisfaction
  • Organizational intervention – engagement, contact, accountability
  • Effective hiring: hire on potential to make a contribution

Lecture 14 – Customers

  • 1962 Consumer Bill of Rights
    • Right to Safety
    • Right to be Heard
    • Right to Choose
    • Right to be Informed
  • The Right to Privacy vs The right for the public to know
  • The Right to Fair Treatment
    • Dynamic Pricing: whenever prices vary according to attributes of potential customers or situation, generally legal
      • Exceptions: can’t use dynamic pricing to run competitors out of business, can’t use pricing for a protected class
    • No price gouging
      • Price limits encourage hoarding
      • Reduce incentives for businesses to boost supply
      • Solution: government subsidies for merchants
    • When is dynamic pricing okay?
      • Transparency
      • Preexisting norms
      • Societal values
      • Necessities vs luxuries

Lecture 15 – High Quality Connections

  • What is a high quality connection?
    • Vitality and energy, responsiveness
    • Not about shallow positive feelings – HQC carry both positive and negative feelings
    • Not the same as close connections
    • Emotional support
    • Helps you act more ethically
    • Helps you make decisions
    • Helps you act more constructively
  • HQC
    • Task Enabling: Helping/facilitating another person’s successful performance
    • Respectful Engagement: Engaging the other in a way that sends a message of value and worth
      • Individuals are perceived on competence and warmth
      • Be present, express gratitude, respond to good news
        • Constructive/Destructive/Passive/Active
    • Trust Signaling: conveying to the other person that we will meet their expectations and are dependable
      • Be generous
      • Emphasize on common ground
      • Make the first step
  • Ways to Enable
    • Teach, Help, Nurture, Advocate, Accommodate

Lecture 16 – Social Impact

  • What makes a tricky subject?
    • Big differences in individual perspective
    • Lots of ambiguous terms and phrases
  • What is Social Impact?
    • Developing more environmentally sustainable practices
    • Contributing to well-being of local communities
    • Improving working conditions
    • Building more inclusive workforces
    • Promoting customer safety
    • Partnering with non-profits
    • Addressing the needs of disadvantaged groups
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: actions that appear to further some social good beyond interests of the firm or reqs by law
  • Corporate social performance: Emphasizes outcomes instead of obligations
  • Triple bottom line: people, planet, profit
  • Conscious capitalism: emphasizes on why corps exists and free markets through stakeholder mindset
  • Individual charity –> organizational charity –> shared value –> impact and integration
  • Shared value
    • Moral obligation
    • Sustainability
    • License to operate
    • Reputation
  • What are the pros and cons of the shared value concept?
  • Social impact: how does this project make a difference in society?
  • Employee engagement: is this something employees care about?
  • Core business: does this tie to the overall company?

Lecture 17/18

  • Recap

 

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