The fear of “what if” is a significant driver in making ethical decisions.
This fear can lead to positive results –
• Fear of getting in an accident – can prevent drinking and driving
• Fear of getting caught – can prevent falsifying information
• Fear of hurting someone else – can prevent unsafe behavior
The fear of “what if…” can also lead to negative outcomes –
• The fear of being shunned – can lead to going along with a bad decision
• The fear of losing one’s job – can cause someone to keep silent when they should speak up
The fear of “what if…” can’t be ignored. It is an important consideration when it comes to acting ethically.
When fear has the potential to lead to poor decisions, it may be time to step back and consider whether they are different alternatives to the ones that have been presented to you. In particular, it may be worthwhile to find out if there are others in your organization that may provide assistance or support if the decision you believe is ethical is likely to be viewed as unpopular by individuals with the power to negatively affect your career. Many organizations have ethics hotlines for this very reason.