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When Personal Values Conflict With Ethical Decision Making

Don Rainwater

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Personal values may conflict with ethical decision making if those personal values are different than the organizational norms of the business or institution. These personal values could be rooted in religious beliefs or a family norm that shunned or promoted a certain concept. These could be insignificant to the organization but the nuance of that concept could start a domino effect that could cause distention among the corporate or institutional structure. Before a leader makes an ethical decision, they should make sure that the decision is based on the organizational norm rather than their own value system.

A belief as simple as the idea that all negative behavior must be confronted could be against the corporate structure where some negative behavior is tolerated while others are discouraged.

A strategy of eliminating the chance for this conflict is simple communication. The leader should talk with their immediate subordinates or middle level managers and find out their opinions about the personal value and see if it is a conflict of interest. The middle managers should then ask their subordinates about the issue without disclosing the decision that should be made.

The consensus of the ethical dilemma should provide enough information so that the leader can find out if the personal value is detrimental or not. With that information the leader can make their decision with a firm belief that it is ethical and their personal value is not reflected in it. If a person bases their life on personal values, then it is imperative that they uses a system of checks and balances to make sure those values do not conflict with the ethics of the company or organization.

Don Rainwater has written many articles on business and educational ethics. To view his books, products, and websites, please visit


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