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The Ethics of Organizational Change (3)

(3): How to remain ethical in the midst of everyday living constraints and temptations ?

June 2012


This paper is the last of a set of three papers on the ethical issues one may face when leading or promoting change in an organization. More generally, these papers shed light on ethical issues in social change.
This short final paper investigates ways people use to remain ethical, in their own view, in the midst of everyday life constraints and temptations. Like the two first ones, it is based on a research where 31 practitioners ( executives and consultants) were interviewed. 

Most interviewees describe their relationship to ethics as something they feel. In other words, they report having some sort of inner ethical compass. However, there is always the possibility of disregarding it or losing one’s connection with it. This can be due to two sorts of reasons: the pressure of business constraints ( making a living or a career, bringing business to one’s company…) and ego satisfaction (appearing as a successful person).

How do they cope with this ? There are two main ways.
First, ethical reviews of some sort: they can be personal reflections after special events, discussions and informal supervisions with peers. They are all moments where one can take some distance from the heat of action and regain some clarity when the connection with one’s ethical compass has become blurred.
Second, enhancing self-awareness and wisdom. Ethics is often about the true intent behind what we do. Some self-awareness is therefore indispensable in order to identify what we are really seeking through a given action or attitude. In addition, a permanent effort towards more wisdom is needed, i.e. a greater control of ego, an improved ability to accept an inner ethical law and to serve something beyond themselves. This might not be the goal of the change agent when taking this role; however, the complexity of social change requires such an intense ethical reflection (for those who are concerned with ethics) that these enhanced self-awareness and wisdom are a gift they will pick up on their journey.


Full pdf  version: click here

This paper is only available in English. A Word version is available on demand.

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