Previously we've talked about the distinction between task conflict and relationship conflict and the importance of really working towards an understanding of where conflict really comes from and to trace its roots back to underlying interests and underlying values. When you get to these underlying causes sometimes you get resolutions. You discover that there are shared interest that were not obvious at first. When that happens it's great. But sometimes when you get to the underlying causes, that's where you actually discover where the real conflict lies. Is that's precisely the underlying values that are conflicted. They're not easily compatible or not easily reconcilable. And in some cases those values actually refer to really deeply held principles about justice or responsibility or standards of right and wrong behavior. In other words, they refer back to moral imperatives. When those conflicts, that's when we have an ethical dilemma. And those can be the most most difficult conflicts to actually manage. That's why we want to talk about them and we'll actually talk through a particular case that represents an ethical dilemma. Ethics matter for international and for domestic context and we probably all can think of business leaders and political leaders who had their ethics severely questioned in recent history, particularly during the financial crisis. Maybe because their business schools take ethics very, very seriously nowadays. They offer ethics courses, business ethics courses. Corporations have ethics programs and formalized codes of conduct. People realize that ethics is very, very important for leaders. Followers need to believe that their leaders will do no harm, that they will do no evil. Ethics becomes the bedrock of trust. Cause when I trust somebody, I have to rely that they will behave towards me with benevolence. Or at least, according to a minimum standard of moral principle. And that happens to me whenever I hire a babysitter for my daughter, there is no certainty. There is no control. And there are no penalties that I can impose that would help me, ultimately, control their behavior. I have to rely on them behaving ethically. That's a fundamental requirement for trust. If ethics become shaky, if ethicality is in question, then trust erodes, and relationships erode. Now for international leaders in an international context, ethics become very complicated because the underlying moral principles are different from culture to culture so leaders really face a significant challenge maintaining their ethicality vis-à-vis their followers. Let's look at a case of an ethical dilemma and see how we can overcome that challenge. Imagine this is the early 1990s and you are working for a French multinational company as the managing director of the local subsidiary in Asia. Right? Doesn't matter which Asian country in Asia. Mm-hm. And you've been working there for a while and now you're discovering that one of the employees is apparently stealing from the company, stealing property from the company. There isn’t a lot of value to it. It’s has a small value to it. There's very little doubt that the employee actually did it. The company that you work for, so globally they have the rule that if employees are stealing, those cases are going to be reported to the local authorities, the local police. That's the normal rule. So the question for you is what would you do essentially if you were in that situation? Well I will go to the police immediately. You follow the standard that has been established. by the company. That’s the rule, you follow the rule. I probably would not… You would not? immediately report it. Okay so you're a little more hesitant. - Yeah. - Why are you hesitating? because I need to think about what are the potential consequences. Okay. Let's keep that thought. You're not quite sure. Maybe you want more information first. There is a number of ways we could gather information: talk to the employee, get his or her side of the story, maybe also see if there are other ways to discipline that kind of behavior inside the organization. But it’s very important, what are the consequences? Mm-hm. Okay, so I'm going to tell you what actually happens. This is a real case. The director actually reported it to the local police. The local police comes and takes the employee to the police station. They interrogate him. The employee confesses, and they take him outside and shoot him, dead. This seems extremely harsh to our ears from our culture vantage point, but in a number of Asian countries, certainly in the 80s and 90s there have been some very drastic, kind of Law and Order, initiatives that really led to drastic consequences even for very minor things. You can imagine what that does to the managing director. If you were in his or her place, that's not what you anticipated. I would quit. You would probably quit. That probably wouldn't help you much, you would still have that on your conscience because you didn't anticipate it. Let's think about that case a little bit more and how you can basically reason your way through those situations to avoid possibly those situations. Before we start digging into the case, let's acknowledge that ethical decisions and ethical dilemmas are complex decisions; so don't feel bad about your choice… I take it back. that you wanted to go inform the police. This is one of the popular myths about ethics and business ethics, that they're simple. So just listen to you voices inside. if you don't want your mother to know what you did, if you feel bad about it. If don't want the world to know on the front page of the New York times, just don't do it. It’s not that simple. There's a great article actually about these myths of business ethics, and this idea that it's simple. Everybody can just do it by themselves is one of those myths. If that was the case, nobody had to have codes of conduct and management of ethics, and so on and so forth. It's complex, especially in a multicultural context. Okay, so let's look at that decision making process that had in your head when I asked you, “What would you do?” All right. Because I'm sure that your wheels were turning. What is the right action here? There's a framework that I quite like which is to kind of reflect on what the basis for your judgement of what is the right action is actually so basically suggest that there's kind of three dimensions that we can think about. We can think about what's right, and what's wrong, and the first one is the legal dimension is what I'm doing legal. Clearly in this case reporting to the police is fully within your legal rights. There is no concern there. Whatever is illegal clearly you don't wanna go there. The second dimension is is it prudent? The question there is, is it in your interest to pursue a certain course of action? Sometimes though we make those decisions very instinctively because we have a sense of what our interests are. Maybe your decision to report to the police and stick to the rules, was that prudent? Yes it was in a foreign country? Yeah, you're in a foreign country, there are the rules. You don't get in trouble from the leadership above you so it was a prudent choice. The third dimension then is is it ethical? The other question is is it the right thing to do considering the principals that inform your action and what you pointed out earlier Josh is what are the consequences? Is the consequence of your action something that you can live with, and that others also can live with? I think your hesitation was a little bit on that dimension, as you said. Yeah. Because the consequence here for the thief, the person that stole property, it was very dire, but there are other consequences too, which would be? Probably other employees would have less trust for me afterwards. Exactly, because they see that your actions can lead to very grave consequences given your relative ignorance of the institutional environment there, of the context. There's a lot of concern now all of a sudden what consequences your next actions could have. So the trust the reliance that they can have that your actions are actually benevolent towards them and won't harm them, that goes down and that’s really problematic. The first takeaway that we have here is that principles for action that might be very moral in one context like we want to ensure that we equally treat all cases of theft around the world. The same way, because we think that's fair. For a French context that would be moral can lead to very amoral. consequences in a different institutional context. Thinking about those consequences is really critical. If you think about these consequences of your decisions of your decisions, of your actions, very often you will find that they will impact, and they relate to, different moral values, from different cultures, in these intercultural ethical dilemmas, situations. The question is which values matter more? So you have to kind of prioritize, to deal with that and people use different rules. So the cardinal rules, golden rules, whatever you wanna call it in a Christian context that's often, you wanna do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Your own priorities, your own preferences should inform the behavior. But there are the other rules that you could think of. So for example, you would do unto others as they would want you to do unto them. They're priorities, they're standards should inform the behavior. Or you would do unto others as Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha would do unto you. That's the aspirational figure that you orient yourself towards, Whatever that figure is. What would Jesus do? What would Mother Theresa do? What would George Clooney do? Very important one, I ask myself that often. That can be a rule. Now the last one I find actually very constructive in a multi national intercultural kind of context. You want to have those aspirations. And you want to have a clear understanding of what are the non negotiables. Maybe human life is the non negotiable. Any decision that impacts human life, that has to be the first priority. And other considerations come later. But it's a difficult discussion, we can't solve that here, clearly. But that's a discussion that organizations need to have. Now, the values and the relative importance are an important part of the ethical code. But, the other important part is, how do we actually resolve these ethical conundrums. What is the process that we go through as you are faced with those difficult situations. Part of this process of dealing with these ethical dilemmas is to have kind of systematic discussions about it. And that could be some cases the discussion that you have to have with yourself, but ideally actually real discussion with people that are implicated, that are involved in that situation. What you can do as a starting point for that discussion is use the framework that we had talked about earlier to try to understand the dimensions of the situation that you're in. Like what is the legal perspective, prudential prospective, and the ethical perspective? And people sometimes think that we immediately recognize the moral implications, but often we don't. We don't even see that a particular decision has these ethical dimensions to it, so having a systematic discussion about them being honest about those considerations is a good starting point. Once you kind of understand the situation in that capacity, you can start thinking about well what are the action alternatives? What are the alternative courses of action that I could adapt? What would that mean from those three angles that we consider? And as you think about this, as you think about these alternatives for action, one technique sometimes helps to really understand the consequences of it better is, “How would I feel about this, if it happened to me?” If somebody else that to make that decision that effected me. Or how would I feel about it if a loved one or a family member was involved in this? How would I behave differently? So that gets you, again, to think about the ethical dimension. Doesn't provide any quick answers, but at least you're reasoning your way through it. And as you have that discussion, clearly you want to focus on, again, the consequences. What does it mean for the organization? What does it mean to the relationships that we have amongst each other? If we go over something that is purely legal and prudential. Does it have a big negative consequence on trust that we have amongst each other? If it doesn't and it's still ethical or kind of minimum that you have to fulfill, okay fine. All right. But maybe the ethical minimum is not enough in some cases because there is a negative implication on trust. That can be a way to reason your way through it. There's this great quote by US Supreme Court Justice, had said that there's a big difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. So we see that in how you handled the situation. You had the right to inform the police of the theft, that's perfectly legal. And also perfectly in line with, your credential considerations. But is the right thing to do from ethical perspective, that's the big question mark. That's probably one of the highest responsibilities of an international leader in an intercultural context to highlight those ethical dilemmas to others. Not to avoid those situations. And to model behavior to work through those situations. And the steps that we've talked about, so to develop that awareness for the moral dimension of a decision. To have standards in place, the aspirational standards and also kind of nonnegotiable, minimum standards, if you will. And to have a systematic discussion about those dilemmas. That goes a long way to really build people's capacity for dealing with those situations and to make sure that you don't have blind application of just principle based standards, but you think about the consequences and do you think about what it does to relationships. And that consideration of the relationships usually is what moves people away from these ethical minimums. Because they realize that it's often that still erodes the trust. If people are feeling that you only do what's absolutely necessary, that often is not enough. So focusing on that relationship, focusing on the impact, on trust, can be a good kind of guiding light for those difficult decisions.