Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sorting Through the Contradictions

Since a sizable amount of the advice that we receive in life is contradictory, such as "Be direct" and "Be kind," we devote a great deal of time deciding which guidance best fits the situation.

Ethicist Michael Josephson advocates that an ethical principle should be abandoned only to further another true ethical principle which, in the decision maker's conscience, produces the greatest amount of good in the long run. [Skeptics who rush to point out the loophole about conscience should acknowledge that if a person is determined to evade a standard, then even a tightly worded guideline won't work.]

Many of the contradictions that we face, however, are less a matter of doing good than of being effective. The question of whether a manager should meet with a supervisor once a week or more or less often is unlikely to produce ethical questions unless an extreme is involved, such as extensive micromanaging or outright neglect and indifference.

While in the middle ground, how should we sort through the contradictions? One alternative may be to stand on the shoulders of Josephson's guidance and ask, "Which management principle will, in addition to being ethical, produce the greatest amount of good performance in the long run?"

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