Building Moral Strength

10.21.2016 Article, Center for Leadership and Character, Ethics, General, School News

By Stephanie Skordas, Sr. Associate Director, Communications

When it comes to any career, knowing your personal values will help guide you through difficult situations. Being able to articulate your values can help you navigate situations where ethical solutions may be a little trickier.

That was the focus of the Moral Strengths Workshop held in the Bern Beatty Colloquium on October 17. Led by Pat Sweeney, the director of the School’s Center for Leadership and Character, the workshop provided practical experience in growing moral strength.

“You have to take moral ownership and have a sense of duty, use moral efficacy – which is believing you can do it – and most importantly, the moral courage to take action,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney guided students and staff members in attendance through assertive communication techniques that could help them discuss ethical dilemmas with coworkers and supervisors. He offered this advice:

  • Clarify: Summarize back your perceived understanding of the requested action or your perceptions regarding another’s potential unethical behavior.
  • Identify: Clearly identify the unethical behavior that is being requested or performed and frame it in ethical terms.
  • Impact: Express how the request to engage in unethical behavior or the unethical action of another impacts you and the organization.
  • Boundaries: State your choice not to engage in the unethical action or tolerate the behavior by another and commit to working together to find an ethical solution.

The group divided into teams to role-play scenarios and practice some of these difficult conversations.

“Using assertive communication techniques can take the focus off an interpersonal situation, and frame it more widely in terms of the organization or the behavior,” Sweeney said. “By focusing clearly on actions and outcomes, you are more likely to get the results that will enable you to navigate sticky issues.”