It might be the easy option, but is it the ethical one?

Wednesday September 12, 2018

Have you ever made an executive decision on impulse and then recited that famous, reassuring phrase “it will all be alright” to justify your decision making? You may have even felt good about the time saved by making a quick and easy decision. Because effectively, more time means more business.

But what if that decision, had a knock-on effect that could come back to bite you? Would you reconsider?

When it comes to good people management, a helpful approach is to adopt the practice of ethical decision making.

What is ethical decision making?

In short, ethics are moral principles that outline human behaviour concerning rights, fairness and virtues. The process of ethical decision making helps us consider what the potential consequences of those decisions might be.

A decision regarding your workforce might be legal and compliant on paper. But if it has the potential to cause injury to feelings or hinder a person’s ability to do their job well, it could be a problem for you later down the line. An expensive one at that.

How do I know if decisions concerning my workforce are ethical?

One person’s understanding of ethics can differ to another’s, based on their experience of particular professions or institutions. Values also play an important role in ethical approaches and can vary due to a person’s background, culture and life experiences. As a business owner you’ll want to ensure that your business has clearly defined ethics and guidelines that all employees are expected to work by. Making this clear from the recruitment stage lets candidates know if your business is a good fit for them.

Top tips on ethical decision making for HR

For our top tips on HR ethics we have listed some common HR issues with band-aid style solutions and ethical HR solutions. Remember: Band-aids are not designed to stick forever.

HR issue: Paying employees
Band-aid: It is a legal requirement to pay your employees at least the minimum wage.
HR Dept: It would be fair to pay your employees an affordable salary based on their skills, experience and the work entailed. Not only does this let your employees know that they are valued, but it increases the likeliness of employee loyalty and low staff turnover for your business.

HR issue: Managing misconduct of senior staff
Band-aid: Having a quiet word.
HR Dept: It would be fair to have a code of conduct for your business stating disciplinary and grievance procedures that apply to all employees. Favouritism would be unfair to your workforce and can lead to tension and resentment.

HR issue: Underperforming employee
Band-aid: Ignoring the underperforming employee.
HR Dept: Ignoring them will not resolve the problem. It would be fair to you and your workforce to monitor the performance of all employees. Letting an underperforming employee continue with no training, development or warnings can create an unhappy situation for all involved.

HR issue: Equipping your employees with the tools they need to do their job
Band-aid: Making do with old tools and systems.
HR Dept: You may think that getting by day to day with your current tools and systems is saving you money. But in truth, waiting for systems to reboot after a crash or investigating the issue yourself on Google is wasting a lot of time. Not to mention the dispiriting mood that this can create in your team. It would be fair to your workforce to equip them with functioning tools and systems to allow them to feel motivated and be productive.


Good people management is not always black and white. Let us help with the grey areas. Contact your local HR Dept professional today for peace of mind and relax knowing that your workforce is working well.

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