Ethics is a way of looking at life and is something that affects us all. People have a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, and we are less tolerant of unethical behaviour in general. Ethical dilemmas are, of course, also common at work. Every day we are faced with having to make difficult choices. But what happens when we are forced to make decisions that compromise our values? How do we make the right choices when faced with ethical dilemmas?
In order to find answers to these and other questions about how we can incorporate ethics into our daily work lives, Your Workplace met with Dr. Bashir Jiwani, ethicist, author and head of the Ethics Services department at Fraser Health in British Columbia, one of Canada’s largest and fastest-growing health authorities.
Your Workplace: You are an ethics champion and have long been advocating “ethics for everyone.” Why is this important now?
Jiwani: I believe that every issue, every question, everything we do has to do with ethics, in that we always make choices. We always behave in ways that we believe, whether consciously or not, will give us something that is important to us. So, every decision reflects our values, and ethics is about being intentional about what should matter in life and making choices that will align with, or give us, what should matter.
The most valuable way of figuring out what should matter in these situations is in dialogue with other people where we can think out loud about what’s important and expose our thinking to the ideas of other people who can help us reflect on our own views, and say things like, “Oh, that’s interesting, here’s another way of looking at it.” In this way ethics requires trusting relationships. If you don’t trust the people around you, you’re not going to be vulnerable. If you can’t count on people not to judge you and sort of bludgeon you with their understanding of what the right answer is in a situation, you’re not going to say, “I don’t know the right answer here. I need to think it through. Can you help me?”