Matters of conscience at the heart of management

N°256a – Synopsis (8p.) – Ethics
Matters of conscience at the heart of management
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How to choose between different options when none of them clearly emerges as being the best?  These dilemmas make us face ourselves: What is most important for us? What do we favor? What image of ourselves do we give others?

Managing exposes us to be regularly confronted by dilemmas. The author of Managing in the Gray analyzes, for example, the case of the head of a medium-sized enterprise. Alisha Wilson shares a personal assistant with three managers. This assistant has efficiently served the enterprise for thirty years, but her work seriously deteriorated over several months. This is hampering the managers who are starting to ask for her replacement. What to do? Fire her using the standard enterprise procedure? Fire her but help her find another job, given her age and her length of service in the company? Persevere further in search of a way to fix the problem without firing her—change her position, temporarily reduce her workload, etc.?

The answer is not obvious. Indeed, the economic demands are clear: the enterprise needs an effective PA. Dismissal seems the most rational solution. But can the thirty years of good service by the person be ignored? Isn’t there a risk that firing her will affect the motivation and the loyalty of the other employees? Furthermore, is it really judicious for Alisha to make a decision that goes against her personal convictions?

When faced with such matters of conscience, having the courage to uphold a difficult decision is not sufficient. One must choose between several options, none of which clearly emerges as the best one. Their repercussions are diverse and cannot easily be compared: how to evaluate an economic cost vs. a human or ethical cost? They are also often uncertain and their risks are difficult to evaluate. Not to mention that the different parties’ interests often seem contradictory. Of course, objective data and experts’ advice can help shape the decision. But they are not sufficient. It is the manager’s role to form an intimate conviction. This places a strong pressure on him or her, both in terms of professional responsibility and in human terms. These are moments of doubt and indecisiveness. But some reactions and behavior patterns can help decide serenely and with greater discernment.

In this synopsis:
- Three good reflexes when facing a dilemma
- Confront matters of conscience with lucidity
- Reinforce the capacity to manage matters of conscience

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