Let’s talk about ethics. Ethical leadership doesn’t coerce employees to do things they wouldn’t otherwise choose to do. Instead, it enables employees to make choices that support their own and others’ well-being.
In his book Flourish, Martin Seligman gives us valuable theory about elements of well-being. How can you apply the theory to cultivate ethical well-being in your workplace?
Start by answering these 5 questions:
- Are you mindful of how your decisions affect others’ feelings? Even when delivering bad news, it’s important to do so in a way that people can find a way to feel good about it. For example, “While this decision may create unrest for some of you, we’re sharing all the facts so you can be empowered to chart your way through the changes.”
- Are you assigning work according to individuals’ strengths? If you want ethical employee engagement, create environments where flow can happen, where people can use their strengths to capacity. When you hear people say, “that was fun” after completing an assignment, you’ll know they were in the flow of just barely stretching their strengths.
- Is there enough flexibility for everyone to pursue tasks in ways that are personally meaningful? Work that’s hollow of meaning becomes drudgery. It’s not ethical to subject workers to daily drudgery that erodes their well-being. Ask your people, “What part of this work resonates most (or would resonate most) for you?” Then enable more of that part.
- Are your target business outcomes reasonable? Your organization has an ethical obligation to be profitable. It also has an ethical obligation to provide a sense of accomplishment for your people. Target outcomes that seem unfair or too high can leave people lost between organizational goals and individual needs. Make sure your targets can be reasonably reached; if not, revise them.
“Other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up.”
Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
- How are you building positive relationships among your team members? Make efforts to create productive interdependencies in some of the tasks you assign so people can find ways to enjoy working together versus being locked in solitude.
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