Ethics

important

ethics are becoming increasingly important

and complex

... but at the same time more complex

skill yourself

fortunately, you can skill yourself

do it now

and preferably as early as possible

also for organisations

you can also apply that knowledge in your organisation

"exciting ethics" pays off

in any case, “exciting ethics” pays off

Why Zinnings?

Ethics are becoming increasingly important.

The moral standard is set higher and higher, the consequences of a mistake can be a catastrophy. This evolution is undeniable and unstoppable.
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In a complex and hyper-connected world, you are never sure if you are not complicit in some injustice.

Our society is evolving towards higher ethical standards.

Just look at how we now think about tax avoidance and evasion, which nowadays causes serious damage to the reputation of the perpetrators. The debates about smoking, sustainability, fair taxation of tech giants, the rise of GDPR, the bonus and dividend discussion in corona times: all signs of changing morals.

As an organisation, it is better to be ahead of the evolution of moral standards: your behaviour today will be judged by tomorrow’s moral glasses, not today’s ones. So, in order not to suffer future reputational damage, you need to anticipate today how high the ethical bar will be tomorrow.

More and more people are looking for coherence in all aspects of their lives: work, family, friends, associative life, societal commitments, everything must be coherent with the personal framework of values. Young people, but certainly not only them, are increasingly looking for meaning in their jobs and are pushing sustainability policy in organisations. Both meaning and sustainability have an ethical core.

Stress is an inescapable phenomenon in these times of rush and fear. People often say: when autonomy and appreciation are absent, stress builds up. Moral stress can mean that you had no autonomy to do what you thought was right. Consumers are increasingly using ethical considerations in their purchases: according to a 2018 study by Edelman, 64% of consumers are a “belief-driven buyer“, compared to 51% the year before. Therefore, we can say that ethics are becoming increasingly important…

 

…and at the same time more complex

The great ideologies no longer guide us, we have to find out for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, and many people are watching our moves.

 

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The great ideologies no longer guide us, we no longer share the traditional ethical frameworks with the subgroup in which our lives take place. We must find out for ourselves what “the good” is. Ethics are being individualised, morals are being democratised. In a complex and hyper-connected world, we face many more dilemmas: what exactly do you think about the Singapore way of tackling the corona outbreak?

The filter bubbles provide a continuous one-sided view of the world. You often hear “solution seeks problem”: whatever the problem is, the answer is always (delete what doesn’t fit) more freedom / administrative autonomy / a return to the glorious past / less inequality / … . How can you ensure that you can still sufficiently challenge and adjust your ethical judgement? 

If fear governs and polarisation is the norm, simple messages have an edge. But moral dilemmas are precisely dilemmas because none of the options for action is without harm. So moral issues are usually not simple, they need nuance and careful thinking, and these days you have to shout out loud to get enough attention for those. 

At the same time, we no longer have a common language for discussing ethical issues: who knows the Ten Commandments? Many say that we must defend the ideals of the Enlightenment ‘in order to defend our values’, but do you know how to include the Enlightenment values in practice when facing a dilemma?

Do you have any friends or relatives with whom you would be better off avoiding some issues for the sake of peace? A kind of armed peace because you know that you are unable to engage in conversation without it derailing? 40% of Americans say that they really do not want to talk about politics at the Thanksgiving party, and 45% doubt whether it is a good idea. Surely that is one thing that unites them.

Environment, climate, human rights, the fight against child labour, fair trade, the fight against poverty, the right to clean water, the SDGs, … : as an organisation, you are expected to assume responsibility for the entire chain: from your suppliers (and their suppliers), via your own processes, to the distributor of your products or services, up to and including the possible recycling of your products. This is not easy, and you will have to set priorities in your plan of approach. So what is a fair distribution of your limited resources to give one priority over the other?

Organisations and companies should work agile, and set up self-directed teams. This means that these teams also need to be sufficiently self-reliant on an ethical level: you don’t want them to fall below the quality bar anyway, you only want them to propose profitable things, and your expectations are also high when it comes to ethics: you don’t want your teams to ruin your reputation.

As an organisation, you draw up codes of conduct, but they never fully cover all real life cases that may occur, and moreover, our VUCA world is changing so quickly that too concrete codes of conduct quickly become obsolete. So you want employees able to think for themselves about the moral aspects of your services and products, and they should not limit themselves to following a few rules.

The memory of the internet also makes it more difficult: trolls that bump into old things from your past have little leniency and understanding for the imperfect human nature or the bygone moral standards back then. If you show daring commitment, your track record must be perfect or you are quickly called hypocrite. Whereas I think: morals are constantly evolving, and the pursuit of a virtuous life can never be perfect. You have to be happy with every additional insight and have the courage to act upon it.

Ethics are also becoming more and more complex, but is there not something we can do about it?

 

Luckily, you can skill yourself

You can quickly learn the essence of 4 major ethical theories, enriching your language with crucial concepts to make better balanced moral judgements.
 
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As soon as you know the background of some of the concepts, rules and principles of the major Western ethical movements, you see them popping up everywhere. Suddenly you see opinion polls, newspaper articles and blogs in which you immediately recognise which ethical theory had the upper hand. You can learn how to use the other theories to come up with a richer range of options, and make a better assessment than if you only thought in one-dimensional terms.

You can learn what values and norms are, and what emotions have to do with them. This can enable you to communicate better about things that affect your sense of justice. You will be able to better maintain a dialogue if you know what binds emotions and values.

Crucial concepts such as freedom, autonomy and responsibility become very concrete if you think about them together for a moment. Knowledge of these concepts brings both mildness and sharpness to your inner moral dialogue. A few exercises in moral reflection can clearly show you how to make a well-considered assessment around a very practical ethical issue. Not rocket science, but a very practical approach. It helps to solve the moral fog in your head.

Zinnings offers this training in an Ethics programme. Fortunately, you can therefore become personally proficient in ethics ..

and preferably as soon as possible.

Organisations can avoid an ethically slippery slope by training employees now. On average, young people start to adopt an individual value pattern from the age of 16.
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There is a theory about the moral development of a human being, based on research by Piaget and later Kohlberg. That model focuses on the sense of justice as an indicator for moral development.

It says that a child up to the age of 12 is first and foremost concerned with avoiding punishment, then also seeking mutual benefit, and later adapting to what others think is right.

So every level of development has its characteristic motivation that drives you in moral justice issues.

In puberty, man would then go a step further and also comply with the laws and rules of the peer group.

And then comes the real moral level of development, which escapes the external conventions and in which you develop your own pattern of values, and in the end you take consciously considered ethical positions. You think something is OK because it doesn’t go against your own principles.

In building up these principles and your own pattern of values, it is therefore useful to have knowledge, skills and a vocabulary that facilitates good moral considerations.

Hence: adolescents at secondary schools and universities benefit from good moral education. Zinnings therefore offers training and workshops for these age groups.

This is also an interesting theory for organisations.

The lowest level is “avoiding punishment”. In organisations you can find out whether many employees do what they do because they mainly want to avoid punishment (or sanctions). In that case, the company culture is more likely to revolve around “keeping a low profile“, avoiding mistakes and not taking too much risk.

Or the other extreme: it could be that many employees work perfectly in line with their own values and feel that their personal moral judgment is flourishing and they are allowed to think autonomously. In that case, the company culture will be based on daring, meaningful and committed entrepreneurship.

It goes without saying that employees will be more motivated, involved and loyal if they can fully be their moral self in their job. If you want to know whether your corporate culture is sufficiently ethical, or how mature it is, or how it evolves, research into the predominant type of motivation is very revealing. It is often a good baseline measurement when starting an update of the company’s ethics policy. Zinnings can guide such research in your organisation.

By the way, there is another reason why an organisation should not wait to strengthen its ethical competencies: the ethically slippery slope. Imagine that employees perceive some ethically questionable behaviour among colleagues, then they ask themselves whether or not they should intervene. Often it is quite a barrier to act and address colleagues on such behaviour, which does require some courage. Not everyone will get over that threshold. But then, as an employee, you are partly complicit, and you no longer have the full credibility to intervene in other matters even if you would like to do so. And so you let things pass. And before you know it, you are on an ethical slippery slope in your organisation, because nobody intervenes anymore. And so organisations become subcultures in which different standards apply than what the outside world expects, and sooner or later that avenges itself. So it’s better to start too soon rather than too late to strengthen your organisation’s communication skills on ethical issues. This is a necessary condition to nip any ethically slippery slope in the bud.

You can also apply that knowledge to your organisation.

Three separate ethical concepts lead you to a better mission, policy (e.g. on remuneration, promotion or marketing), and codes of conduct. And the fourth concept addresses the gaps in the first three: it ensures self-reliant, ethically skilled employees.
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In fact, everything starts from the latter: first of all, make sure that you, as the person responsible for the organisation, are personally well versed in ethics. Then you will have no barriers or doubts to set an example within your company. First take your oxygen mask before you start helping others. Understanding ethical principles gives you the energy to work them company-wide.

You can then start working on improving the first domain mentioned above: the mission and vision: why does your organisation exist, what would be missing in the world if your organisation were not there, and how are you going to achieve this. “Purpose”, can be made alive, shared and credible if you work with your team on the ethics of your mission and vision.

Many of the issues around fairness in an organisation revolve around policies: is the pay gap fair, does everyone have a fair chance of promotion, or can we consider our persuasive advertising and marketing as fair? This can also be investigated and improved on the basis of ethical considerations.

Codes of conduct are necessary, but not sanctifying on itself. It is better to have short but well-lived and respected codes of conduct than umbrella versions that are so long that no one reads them, isn’t it?

But the crucial factor is that your employees are capable of forming their own judgement, that they continue to think beyond what the codes of conduct, policies or mission tell them. This is the only way to fill the gaps of the other three factors, as well as reducing moral stress and increasing employee engagement. Actually, it only makes sense to work on the first three domains (mission, codes of conduct, policies) if the people involved are also proficient in the basic language of ethics and are able to make their own assessments of ethical issues. Mission, codes of conduct and policies could then be the finishing touch of your team’s individual ethical competencies.

Moral deliberation is a discussion method in group or individual, in which concrete issues are discussed, and which can enrich the policy or codes of conduct or procedures, but they can also improve internal communication and dialogue and promote team spirit. Offering moral deliberation is part of the prevention policy on moral stress, and is a concrete action that anchors the ethical culture in an organisation.

Zinnings offers organisations training courses, the supervision of moral deliberation sessions, workshops, advice and presentations on ethics.

And whether you are personally or professionally interested in the practical application of ethics,…

In any case: “exciting ethics” pays off.

Ethics just because it pays off, is not really ethical, of course.
But you can’t ignore the fact that it pays off: less stress, more dialogue, quicker demining of tensions, more conscious choices, more involved employees, … and you can look everyone straight in the eye. And it is so much more enjoyable to live and work in an environment you feel comfortable in.
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Ethics are becoming more important but at the same time more complex, as explained above. It certainly pays to get better skilled.

Does ethics always pay off in business? That would assume that everyone is in good faith, and that everyone is aiming for the long term, that is, I fear, asking a lot. But the changing public opinion, the more ethical consumer behaviour, the need for an organisation to be at the forefront of that public opinion, the harsher and faster public moral indignation on social media in the event of incidents, the expectations of your employees, stress prevention, the moral components of sustainability and purpose, … are factors that highlight the usefulness of a good ethical policy.

Better risk management, reputation management, employee retention, personal energy and sense of purpose, self-reliance and autonomy, that’s what it comes down to.

There is one “but”: if you do not mean it, if you are not intrinsically motivated to act ethically, the benefits will not last. If you do it just for the gains, then you will certainly fail, and the trust in your ethical intentions will leave at lightspeed. Trust comes on foot but leaves on horseback.

News

New dates for open courses:

“Ethics” (in Dutch):

        15+16 December 2021.

23/10/2020 : new blog and podcast: on equal opportunities.

24/9/2020 : does a health economist have a different moral compass than you and me? And a virologist?

Read it in the blogs.

For Whom

Private individuals

At Zinnings, you can follow the open course “Ethics” (2 days), and the follow-up day “Ethics in organisations”, e.g. for application in your sports club, cultural association, voluntary work or the organisation for which you work.

 

Organisations

You can participate individually in a programme from the open offer. A training, moral deliberation or workshop can also take place within your organisation. Zinnings can also provide advice, and is also available for presentations or keynotes.

Education

For adolescents, the ideal combination is: a moral deliberation session (a super concrete ethical assessment around an issue they raise themselves) followed by an adapted version of the training.

What can Zinnings do for you?

01. Training courses

Zinnings offers a two-day programme to personally train you in ethics, and a follow-up day to apply that knowledge in your organisation. There is also a short version of half a day for pupils and students.

 

02. Moral deliberation

A guided discussion method for a group of 3 to 12 participants, in which concrete moral issues are discussed. It takes about two hours, and as a team you learn something about a concrete problem, but also about each other.   

03. Workshops 

Practical, interactive consultation moments tailored to an organisation; they can be about a moment of ethical crisis, about implementing your core values, about sharpening your mission, policies or codes of conduct. But also, for example, about how to shape an ethical policy in your organisation.

 

04. Advice

On ethical issues in organisations. About policy, awareness or training programmes, enriching the mission and vision, making codes of conduct alive. How to integrate moral deliberation into your stress prevention approach, or how to make the core values of your organisation come true.

05. Presentations

Do you want to share with everyone how thrilling it can be to work with ethics? Do you want to be excited about how simple it could be to name your moral gut feeling?

 

01. Training courses

Zinnings offers a two-day programme to personally train you in ethics, and a follow-up day to apply that knowledge in your organisation. There is also a short version of half a day for pupils and students.

02. Moral deliberation

A guided discussion method for a group of 3 to 12 participants, in which concrete moral issues are discussed. It takes about two hours, and as a team you learn something about a concrete problem, but also about each other.

03. Workshops

Practical, interactive consultation moments tailored to an organisation; they can be about a moment of ethical crisis, about implementing your core values, about sharpening your mission, policies or codes of conduct. But also, for example, about how to shape an ethical policy in your organisation.

04. Advice

On ethical issues in organisations. About policy, awareness or training programmes, enriching the mission and vision, making codes of conduct alive. How to integrate moral deliberation into your stress prevention approach, or how to make the core values of your organisation come true.

05. Presentations

Do you want to share with everyone how thrilling it can be to work with ethics?

Do you want to be excited about how simple it could be to name your moral gut feeling?

Agenda open training sessions

15+16/12/2021 Open training “Ethics”, in Dutch

Open training “Ethics”, in Dutch.

9.00 a.m. – Geetbets: Heerlijckyt van Elsmeren. The course “Zin in zinderend zinnigs”: two-day basic course Ethics, a practical application of the major Western schools in ethics. Price: € 850.00 incl. VAT for the two-day course with overnight stay. 25% discount for private individuals, VZWs and CVs in the social sector.

 

Contact

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