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Exercising emotional and rational integration

An important part of the ethical skill set involves trusting the gut-response to a moment or situation.

Most often we encounter ethical quandaries first at a visceral level as an emotional discomfort or concern. The rational problem usually only comes into focus when we respect that initial - often fleeting - instinct. Experience shows that ethical abuses occur when our emotional radar is glossed over or intentionally suppressed. We need our minds to dissect and evaluate ethical variables. But first we need to learn to listen to our gut and trust our feelings to identify the actual issues.

None of us will have the wisdom or insight to unknot all the difficulties posed by the ethical questions we confront in business. The commitment is to be alert to this challenge with all the gifts and competencies of our humanity, including our feelings, moral imagination, creativity and respect for relationships.

The following model suggests terms for integration, and is inspired by the work of the twentieth century Scottish philosopher John Macmurray.

    Positive Emotional

  • Empathetic to others
  • Concerned for community
  • Striving for fairness
  • Attentive to inner integrity
  • Outrage at indignity
  • Awe for what is good and best

    Positive Rational

  • Pragmatic about responsibilities
  • Analytic in problem solving
  • Respectful of what is just
  • Appreciative of balance
  • Restless to improve
  • Recognizing interdependence

    Negative Emotional

  • Exclusively self-interested

  • Competitive without prudence

  • Disconnected from others

  • Segregating personal morality

  • Impervious to suffering

  • Untouched by ugliness

    Negative Rational

  • Exclusively “fact-based”

  • Limited only by what is legal

  • De-personalizing data

  • Justification only from the end

  • Closed accountabilities

  • Race to the bottom


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