in Action: The Courage to Stand Up
Standing up for your ethical
principles takes courage. Courage is the ability to face danger, difficulty,
uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by
fear. When you see something happening in the workplace that just doesnt
seem right do you have the courage to stand-up and do something? What are you
afraid of? Retribution, disapproval, your image, damaged relationships, or
simply the unknown? Courage is about setting aside your fear and taking action
for the good of yourself or someone else.
A firefighter courageously runs into a burning building because he or she
is protecting life and property. Part of his courage comes from his duty
job and community but the rest comes from a courageous instinct that kicks
in. Although most ethical dilemmas at work arent a matter of life and
death, the principle of standing up to protect someones rights as well
as basic principles of honesty, moral virtue, and ethical behavior is a noble
We need to have a sense of moral justice in our approach to unethical behavior
so it disturbs something deep within our character when we see it.. But
simply being offended by wrongdoing is not enough. Courage comes in confronting
those feelings inside and taking action.
A courageous person is that one individual in a crowd of onlookers who
actually steps out and does something. A young man named Kristopher Kime
who was beaten
to death while trying to rescue a woman during the Seattle Mardi Gras
riots showed enormous courage. He probably had the same feelings of fear,
hesitation, and anger that you would experience in the midst of a street
riot. But he did something extremely courageous by stepping out from
crowd to save an innocent life. When you stand up for principles of goodness
and virtue it may feel like a mob attack.
Human nature tells us that if nothing is ever said or done about bad
behavior it will continue or get worse. Allowing things to slide will
eventually take everything else for the same ride. Ethics without the
component of courage
to stand-up for it keeps it in the realm of heady philosophy and out
So, what does courage look like from 9 to 5 in the office? There are
no crowds of onlookers or T.V. cameras to record your courage or
usually just you and customer, boss, or vendor face to face or on
the other end of the phone. The first level of action is your initial reaction.
something like, Sorry, I just cant ethically do it that way, but
I think another way would be
puts on the brakes right
away and points to an alternative solution. This is a courageous,
ethical reflex. In
order for this quick response to become a natural reflex, you need
to be prepared in your mind and character and be ready for a response.
The second level is to approach the person with whom you have a problem.
This is NOT easy. Most of us dont naturally confront people.
To most of us, the courage to actually go up and talk face-to-face
takes a superhuman Kristopher
Kime level of courage. Your voice trembles, stomach hurts, beads
of sweat roll down your face. It certainly FEELS like a life or
death struggle. But remember,
courage is about facing difficulty without being overcome by fear.
The third level of action is to find help. Especially when someone
rights or property are at play you need to take things to the next level. Rather
than think of yourself as a tattle-tale, consider yourself a courageous change-agent
for good. Again, this is not easy. Be ready. Having someone
fight your battle for you may be harder than fighting it yourself.
You still have to face
your coworkers AND you lose most (or all) control over the path
to a solution.
Principles of decency, integrity and what is good and right are
not to be treaded upon lightly. Ethics is more than just following
rules, it is a part
of our deeply-held belief system that makes-up the core of
our character. It is worth protecting. It is worth stepping out in
courage and making
sacrifices. Whether you think you share the courageous qualities
of a hero or not
rest assured that you do.
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