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I was at a meeting last night, and the subject was Guidance – where do you find it? The trainer suggested that there were 5 sources to which you can turn when faced with a decision, or more accurately a momentous decision, the settling of which will have massive impact on ‘what happens next’ in the particular scenario with which you may be struggling at any time. Note that I said impact – the event leading to the decision may seem quite trivial, but your decision on how to deal with it will create the result you want, the outcome you need (which may be completely different), or a complete mash up mess.

The sources included reference material, social and professional peers, and previous practices or protocols. But the one that made me sit up with interest is arguably the most important one, and relates to the Second Resolution, or more specifically the second part.

The decision might well go through all of the assessment sources identified in the previous paragraph: what does the book say, what do my colleagues, supervisors and other human resources suggest I should do, and what is the current practice as laid down in page 457, paragraph 3 sub-section 2 of that manual we all say we’ve read but have actually never been able to find. And after going through that systematic(!?) approach, we arrive at the final guidance criteria, the one relating to that Resolution, and the one which causes the most trouble. And that assessment question is….

“Is it the RIGHT thing to do?”

The problem may have technical solution. It may have a protocol supporting the policy supporting the law supporting the organisation. Your friends may think it’s best. But in your heart, there is doubt.

If that is the case, you need to ask that last question and decide whether your conscience will let you do something you know isn’t right (or as right as it could be), but you’ll keep your job and reputation; or whether you’re prepared to act in all conscience, breach a protocol or practice, risk offending your peers and be absolutely content that what you did was clearly in keeping with your own personal value system, and extrinsic principles.

Not easy.

I hope that where I’ve been faced with such decisions in my past that I usually made the right choice. No doubt there have been occasions when I know I’ve done what I was told to do, in contravention of what I thought I should do, but that was often the result of a direct order by someone with more experience, knowledge (and power) than me. But in one situation that comes to mind as I write this, I was able to communicate my distaste for the execution of the instruction.

It isn’t easy fighting for what’s right. There are always consequences. But it’s a lot easier than fighting your conscience over something you did that you knew wasn’t right. You have to weight the consequences of every decision, right or wrong. You may have to weigh them up for a long time.

But while you wrestle with your feelings over what you decided and what you did, don’t forget to consider that other alternative: how would you feel if you hadn’t stood up for what was right?

Don’t focus on the problems created by acting correctly, in accordance with your conscience, values and personal character.

Focus instead on the personal integrity you demonstrated. People can see it, even if they rarely point it out.