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Reflection Paper

Ethical and Social Responsibility of


Leadership

Jyotsna Girhotra
Dr. Kathleen Roche

The Ethical Executive


Primary, Defensive and Personality Traps

Topics for Discussion


Primary
Obedience to Authority
Competition
Enacting a Role

Traps
Defensive

Personality

Anger

Low Self Esteem

Introduction
Ethics is a system of moral principles and an Illusion is something that deceives by
producing a misleading impression of reality. Ethics and social responsibility are two
very important components of each individuals own personal values.
A man without Ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world. Albert Camus
Every individual perceives ethics differently but essentially its learning the ability to
be able to separate right from wrong, and then execute the right thing. The struggle
is that its not that easy to identify right from wrong in the practical world there is
a lot of grey. It is relatively easy to define ethics compared to practicing ethics in the
work place.
Since the primary concern of most businesses is the bottom line, the ethical views
may differ based on the type of business. Ethics and social responsibility has been
taken for granted several times by corporate scandals and collapses. One of the
countrys most famous examples of ethics violation is the Enron scandal. It is
crucial that all companies incorporate ethics and social responsibility into their
strategic planning process.

The Role of Business Ethics


I believe that the main purpose of business ethics is to hold a company and its
employees accountable for their actions as they affect others including both
internal and external behavior. Defining business ethics keeps businesses and
professionals mindful of the consequences of their actions so that they can pursue
success responsibly. Business ethics can apply to every aspect of business and thus
they typically have a dramatic impact on the structure of a company. Ethics should
be defined top-down to be most effective and would like to quote Edward Hennessy
here:
Ethics must begin at the top of the organization. It is a leadership issue and the
Chief Executive must set the example.
One important role of business ethics is to manage behavior that cannot be covered
by governmental laws. There are many actions which, while they are legal, are also
detrimental to certain groups such as employees, members of the community, and

groups that are affected by the actions of a company. By having a code of conduct,
a business can self-regulate its behavior and ensure that it is acting appropriately.
The standards for what is acceptable in the professional environment are constantly
changing. Another role of business ethics is to demonstrate behavior that is the
current norm. Actions that were acceptable in the past can become inappropriate in
later years and vice versa. In addition to ensuring a company acts with sensitivity,
another role of business ethics is to keep the business honest. While many unethical
behaviors are not illegal, they can often lead to unlawful acts. Having a code of
ethics can encourage employees to stay honest and steer clear of potentially illegal
behavior.

Traps
We are all motivated to act a certain way due to either external or internal stimuli.
Sometimes though we act at a spinal level without realizing that there were other
better options for us to act upon and sometimes even though we are aware of the
options we just do not consider them. While reading the book, I started to identify
the situations called Social-Psychological traps in the book. Being aware of these
traps helps us identify the root cause of our actions and gives us the chance to
change them. The book describes essentially 3 types of traps: Primary, Defensive,
and Personality. In my paper, I would be reflecting on the traps that I didnt think of
as a trap and kept executing my role and responsibilities.

Primary Traps
Predominantly external stimuli - These are external pressures that force us to
abandon our values and ethical beliefs. They make a gradual path toward unethical
behavior look rewarding and appealing. These traps sensitize our self-interest and
encourage us to wander from ethical desires.
A few of the primary traps that pertain to me are:
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Trap 1: Obedience to Authority

All our lives, we have grown up hearing


o

Be obedient, be a follower, blindly follow authority.

At my workplace, as a consultant, I get to work with a multitude of bosses


some of them follow my way or highway while others follow by hook or crook
style of management. I believe that it is easy to fall into the trap due to our
upbringing, its considered a positive trait and sometimes leads to promotions.
Also, employees went rogue are never appreciated. What are the benefits of this
trap? Theoretically, its good to follow orders if the outcomes are always positive
and no parties are hurt in the process. However in practical life is it possible to
blindly follow?
While I was reading about this trap in the book, I recalled an incident at my
workplace where my boss had the my way or highway style of operation. We
were supposed to present a solution to the client in a few hours and the team
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had been busy with production release. Since we did not had the time or the
resources, he asked me to quickly put something together and take bits and
pieces from another proprietary material. I raised an alarm and refused to follow
orders. Consequence I was thrown out of the project after a few days but I was
happy that I did not fall in that trap. I have no regrets on my decision and am
able to sleep peacefully in the night. I believe that each situation is different and
following orders might work in some cases but not in others. There should be a
balance and we should not blindly follow authority. Each situation should be
analyzed uniquely and in entirety to make any decisions. Authority and power
should be divided among a group of people instead of just one.
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Trap 6: Competition

Believing that a business decision is a zero-sum game. If you win, the other
loses, decreasing mutual benefit. Competition encourages the hiding of
information, mistrust, and betrayal.
This trap is the most common in consulting and we are always on the lookout
where we can gain more over other companies/individuals. I have constantly
fallen in this trap since I am highly competitive. I have identified this trap as a
root cause to some of my decisions and am working on changing that by making
myself aware of other options that could be mutually beneficial. At my current
assignment we have a multi-vendor environment and in the process of trying to
buy/sell more work we are in constant competition with the other vendors. My
team met with top executives of my company to sell a solution that would be
beneficial to the company in the long run but involved taking over some
responsibilities that were being currently executed by a different vendor. The
easiest path would have been to pitch the deal by taking over the responsibilities
from the other vendor but that would have spoiled our working relation in other
areas. On a lot of brainstorming we came to a conclusion to have them continue
working on their part and adding more responsibilities while we focus on our part
and then slowly take over. It might not be the best option now that I am more
aware of this trap thanks to the book but seemed to be a win-win at that time.
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Trap 17: Enacting a role

The separation of the person from the work or decision, based on the belief that
work life differs from reality. Compartmentalizing life to justify unethical
behavior.
Never think that a small group of committed people cant change the world.
Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
At work we are constantly told that professionalism and ethical behavior in the
workplace can benefit your career and improve your working environment. As
an executive, I am always pushing my team to deliver efficient results sooner
than the actual deadlines. This sometimes causes the team to crash due to long
hours and decreases motivation. I along with other executives identified this as a
problem and digged deeper to identify the root cause. This year we are trying to

incorporate design thinking for executives to stop and think before we start
pushing the teams to deliver. Design thinking has been developed with keeping
customers, solutions, employees and executives in mind and would eventually
help make change in how we execute our business. This would be a show and
tell for my team this year.

Defensive Traps
These traps are created to justify the actions already taken and explain an unethical
behavior. These traps attempt to minimize shame and guilt, justify unethical
behavior, and falsely create reward or gratification for the action. Significantly
involving emotions, defensive traps often establish an internal battle in which the
decision-maker may ignore over time.
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Trap 21: Anger

Anger is a powerful emotion that quickly obliterates the tender emotions that
accompany ethical behavior. Excessive anger squelches empathy and guilt. As
the book describes, anger diminishes ones ability to be aware of their
surroundings and the hostile work environment that they are creating around
them. This is one trap that I constantly struggle with in my professional and
personal life. Anger clouds my judgment and makes me behave erratically. It
doesnt help me make my point across. I have somehow learnt to control it at
workplace but I still lose my mind at home. I have observed that when I am
angry, its hard for me to feel empathetic towards the person I am angry with.
This happened very recently about 2 weeks ago, we had a deliverable due and
I had assigned it to one of my team member, the team member told me at the
last minute that he wont be able to deliver the piece since he is not feeling well.
Anger got over me and, as I am writing this paper, I am realizing that I stopped
listening after the sentence that he wont be able to deliver. I immediately
started thinking who else I can give the work to and forgot to ask him about his
health. Later, that evening one of my colleagues told me that I should have
asked him about his health. Since I was not angry anymore I realized how I fell
in the anger trap and anger obliterated my tender emotions. A colleague of mine
had to give me a reality check.

Personality Traps
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Trap 41: Low Self-Esteem

Self-Esteem is defined as our overall self-evaluation. If we are constantly told that


we are incapable of doing a particular task - as a human we would look for ways to
perform the tasks but keep some form of back up to cheat in case we are unable to
do so. A lot of people do different things to boost their self-esteem some try to
hang out with the group that is perceived high esteem, boost about their
accomplishments, fabricate achievements, etc. Most of these shortcuts are
harmless to others but if these resources is added to the project, it might create a
rift between existing and new participants. False claims might sound really good
while talking to but it might hamper the employees work when they actually get to
executing the job.

Conclusion
Reading the book The Ethical Executive was an eye-opener and I would use it as
reference in trying to identify the root cause for some of the behaviors (team,
management, etc.). The book describes about 45 traps but it seemed to me that
they are all intertwined. Each trap is situational and the possibility of having more
than 1 trap in any given situation is higher. Which trap should you absolutely avoid?
Which one is the evilest of them all? Some of my questions that I do not have the
answers for as of now. Some traps are pretty straightforward and some are hard to
identify. One solution to prevent from falling into any of the traps is to constantly be
aware of your personality, surroundings and ask for executive as well team
opinions. Always remember:
The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do, the hard part
is doing it. Norman Schwarikoff