Thursday, March 6, 2008
How do you determine what is ethical?
According to the dictionary the definition of ethical is "having to do with what is right or wrong or what is moral". Easy enough, I suppose, but the difficulty lies in the application of, and perspective from which one comes to, "right" and "wrong".
As the world has become more and more relativist, as cultural outlooks and great historical themes are re-examined from a more global and less narrow perspective of morality, the deepest and most civilization-shaping ideals of right and wrong have come to be questioned and re-evaluated. In some ways, what has been right in times past has become wrong; and what has been wrong has become right.
I remember a good example of this from my childhood. My father worked for a major regional electricity generating company and took great pride in the signs of industrialization the power plants were a part of: the huge smoking stacks, the belching automobile plants, the smoggy air. He used to take us on Sunday drives to see the power plants. Then at one point as we grew, the culture's awareness surfaced in us as children that all this effluent pouring into the air was not a good thing but a bad thing. I remember passing over a river valley, on one of those high freeway bridges spanning the sprawl of huge automobile and power plants spread out below, chanting "pollution, pollution, pollution" with my sisters as my father drove. Suddenly these signs of industry and "progress" were no longer to be celebrated; no longer "good". This was especially difficult for my father, I think.
How does this apply to coaching? I think that taking a simplistic, unchanging view of ethics when working with people is dangerous, but at the same time one can be guided by an over-arching dedication to ethics that would allow for change when change is ethical and due.
Standards and degrees of honesty and a firm grasp on the spiritual nature of the concepts of right and wrong are perhaps the best guide posts to use when determining what is ethical. Listening to and gathering evidence, being committed to seeking an ethical approach, allowing change in one's previous stand if the evidence indicates that a change must be pursued in order to conform to one's standards of ethics, getting active support from trusted others who are similarly committed to ethical behavior, are all ways one can be sure to be following ones own ethical standards.