An Everyday Ethics Test

by Amanda "Jo" Erven | Jul 20, 2021

We all encounter ethical gray areas in our lives. We face them every single day. Ever wish you had guidelines for dealing with those gray areas in your life?

Here is an Everyday Ethics Test, a simple way to help you make better decisions—personally, professionally, and institutionally. When you face a challenging business decision, take this test.

Question One: Is the act or decision "institutionally compliant?"

Is the act or decision lawful and compliant – not only in the spirit, but also in the intent of the related law and regulations? Further, is the act or decision consistent with applicable professional standards, such as the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct? And lastly, does the act or decision comply with the organization’s values and standards of conduct?

Be guided by thoughtful compliance.

Question Two: Is the act or decision "consequences aware?"

Does the act or decision take into full consideration of the short-term and long-term impact on stakeholders? Have you thought through the consequences completely and thoroughly? I often refer to the great American philosopher, Sissela Bok, and her"Yes, but" questions. When a decision is about to be made, stop and ask yourself? "Yes, I could do XXXX, but – what is going to be the impact on others?"

Be guided by, and proudly stand by, your answer.

Question Three: Does the act or decision have a "blind spot?"

I end the "Ethical Choices" chapter in my book, The Everyday Ethicist, (and I often end my ethics presentations) with this:
"Say something, even if…
Even if… it costs you two dollars.
Even if… it costs you a friend.
Even if… it costs you your job."

When faced with a difficult decision, ask yourself if you are being blinded by money. Ask yourself if you are being blinded by group think or peer pressure. Ask yourself if you are being blinded by an authority figure or organizational desire (perhaps to put profits before purpose).

Be guided by saying something, even if.

Question Four: Does the act or decision follow the "Golden Rule?"

If you were the major stakeholder impacted by the result of the act or decision, would you be happy (i.e., untroubled, delighted, joyful, pleased, or whatever similar positive state you like)?

We all have learned some version of the Golden Rule  ̶  no matter the environment, religion, or culture in which you were raised. Whether it was at home, in church, in school, or just on the playground  ̶  we were taught to treat others as we would like to be treated. Next time you are confronted with an ethical dilemma, go back to the playground rules, and …

Be guided by the golden rule.

Question Five: Does the act or decision pass a "gut check?"

Would you be comfortable with a full description of your acts or decisions on the front page of the newspaper? Or as an Internet headline? Or more personally, would you be comfortable describing your actions to your family, your best friend, your spiritual leader, or your mentor? And lastly, and even more importantly, will you be able to look yourself in the mirror after the decision is made? (Read “The Man In The Glass” by Peter Dale Wimbrow, Sr.)

Be guided by your gut. It was given to you for a reason. This quote sums it up for me: "What is needed is a realignment of societies’ priorities, where honesty and integrity are more important than fame and fortune." – Joseph T. Wells

Our society needs an Everyday Ethics Test. We all need an Everyday Ethics Test. Use mine or create your own. Just start paying attention to your acts, decisions, and priorities, and act with integrity … even if.

Amanda Jo ErvenAmanda “Jo” Erven, CPA, CIA, CFE, is the President and Founder of Audit. Consulting. Education. LLC. After a successful career in external/internal audit and accounting, Jo is now an active internal audit strategist, management consultant, higher education professor, author, and trainer/speaker, providing CPE hours, live and virtually, to organizations worldwide.

Join us at the Bottles, Brews & Buds Conference, August 5-6, where Jo will teach you how to create a Cannabis Risk & Control Matrix (CRCM) that is useful for investors, regulators, auditors, and anyone needing comfort in your unique processes.

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