What is Your Ethical Literacy?

Did you know that we all have different Ethical Literacy styles? That we use different assumptions about our choices and decisions and reactions to events that occur based on our preferred implicit code of values and principles?

Some people make decisions based on assessments of care for others or of implications for character; others on the basis of duty or consequences. Each approach is an Ethical Literacy style. For example in a group the other day, one man commented that he didn’t like a decision because he was concerned how people would view him as a leader if we went down that path. He was concerned about being seen as having a virtuous character. Another was worried about the effects on the business. She was exhibiting a consequence style. Another was concerned about the effects on people’s time and effort (values and principles about care). The interesting thing was that when they all put their view forward they were not able to ‘hear’ each other in any real sense of the word because their assumptions were so different.

Without knowing that we have different Ethical Literacy styles, leaves room for unconscious bias – not least in relation to the suggestions provided to colleagues or friends and clients as well as the decisions made in every meeting we attend.

We have had fun over the last few months developing a way of assessing this with many people being delighted and surprised to know war their particular approach is as they were so unaware of it – but it seemed so obvious when they came to identify their style at work in their lives.

Of course knowing is one thing….doing is another. Ethical Literacy includes the capacity to understand our own style, to recognise the styles of others and being flexible and responsive in any context we move through. It means self reflection, agility and empathy in our responses, asking questions and the capacity to walk in others’ shoes.