Learning and Development Ethics: Article 4 of 9

Written by Dr Hannes Nel, D. Com; D. Phil

Introduction. It is rather difficult to faithfully post articles this time of the year. I’ve been on holiday for three weeks and will probably also not post anything between Christmas and the new year. Therefore, this is the last one for 2018. I will cover the following issues in this article:

  • Do your work and learning in the open.
  • Eliminate offensive words and comments from your vocabulary.
  • Say no to negativity.

Do your work and learning in the open. Many people use transparency in their dealings with other people just for show, thereby compounding the problem of corruption and dishonesty. In its simplest sense, transparency means delivering clear and honest work. It also means not having a hidden agenda and an honest desire to satisfy the needs of your employer or educator.

Eliminate offensive words and comments from your vocabulary. Derogatory terms and off-colour jokes have no place at work or the classroom. They are degrading and unethical, and they can have legal repercussions. The words you use, and the jokes you tell, say a lot more about you than the people you are talking about.

In the workplace it will be your responsibility to ensure that you and your employees don’t use, or are exposed to, offensive language. This means that you will need to take active steps to ensure that the workplace is appropriate. People are especially sensitive to racist and humiliating words and phrases. People who are extremely racist or rude are mostly called to order by the other employees or learners. Subtle words and remarks are more difficult to control because the guilty persons might not even realise that what they are saying can be regarded as offensive.

Say no to negativity. The negative thinkers are the people who say things like “It’ll never work” before they even consider how to make it work. They are the ones who openly criticize the organization, spread rumours about other learners and the facilitator, complain and try to pull others into their circle of negative thinkers. Negativity is counterproductive; it erodes integrity and sometimes fosters illegal acts. Negativity is wrong. The worst situation that you can have is when you are a negative thinker. We should not accept that the negative thinkers will always be with us, because once we adopt this attitude, we will not get rid of them. As long as we resist negative thinking and avoid negative thinkers, we will at least be able to curtail the tendency.

Rules, regulations, command, control, policies and procedures are necessary in especially larger learning institutions, but they seldom eliminate unethical behaviour. The reason for this is that they are often based on negative motivation.

Even though legislation can sometimes be written in a negative manner or with negative purposes in mind, you should still abide by the laws of the country. Laws are created to help society function. In general, ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. The same applies to organizational rules and procedures. Rules and procedures are normally developed to help the organization function successfully and to avoid problems.

Ethical behaviour arises from deep within people – more from positive motivation than negative regulations. Regulations, procedures and the culture of your learning institution should be positive and instil values in the hearts and minds of your staff members.

In closing, may 2019 surprise us all by turning out to be the best and most fruitful year ever. I admit that I am rather apprehensive about this one (how’s that for negative thinking) but good things can happen. Happy new year.

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