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Workplace decision making, part 2

By Paul H. Stein

In my last article, "Ethical Decision Making In The Work Place", I discussed and asked for input regarding the appearance of a firefighter abusing sick leave. Allow me to add a little twist to the scenario. Let's imagine you were the off- duty Captain who saw the firefighter at the home supply store. You decided not to confront the firefighter or mention this incident to anyone else.

On your next duty day, your Battalion Chief calls you into his office and informs you that both you and the firefighter who called in sick were both seen at the store. He indicated he is trying to gather facts and wants to know what you know about the incident. What do you tell him?

Would you cover up? As with Watergate and President Nixon, sometimes the cover-up ends up being worse than the underlying offense.

The bottom line is each of us can be as ethical with our decisions as we are willing to be. We need to think about our decisions in terms of simply right or wrong, how it impacts relationships, our credibility and our reputation.

My mother use to tell me to stop and look both ways before I cross the street. That is also a good thought to have before making a decision. We should stop, think, and ask ourselves if we are making a good choice. The following are some questions to ask ourselves.

  • Is my decision in line with the organization's mission statement?
  • Will my decision affect others?
  • Is there another option? 
  • Could I jeopardize important relationships?
  • Is it the ethical thing to do?

It's often said that our choices reveal our character. It is also said our choices shape our character. In turn our character shapes our destiny.

So, how would you define character? I believe that character is simply ethics in action. Successful leaders focus on building a sustainable ethical culture that nurtures and promotes integrity, competence, accountability, trust and respect, and discourages dishonesty. I believe the officer of character would say something to the firefighter at the home supply store.

This is certainly easier said than done. There is no such thing as the perfect fire officer or perfect firefighter. We all make mistakes. We say and do things we regret. The important thing is that we learn from the mistakes we make.

Read more by Chief Paul H. Stein at 

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