I believe that ethics can only be proactive. There is no such thing as reactive ethics. Reactive ethics really compliance, and compliance, by the very word, is truly a reactive dynamic.
To embrace ethics as proactive, please consider these reflections as a foundation for ethics training.
- Ethics needs to focus on action and not behavior. What this means that in being proactive, the purpose is to clarify what’s negotiable and what’s not, what’s acceptable and what’s not BEFORE a situation arises, so there is no debate about what has become behavior. To deal with behavior is an “after the fact” issue, which again falls into the compliance arena.
- Being proactive in ethics then really justifies action and not the behavior. By this I mean by being proactive in establishing guidelines before an issue arises, creates a proactive framework that is the cause and reason for justification of an action. If guidelines, without explanation or training, are imposed after an action takes place, i.e. behavior, there is too much room for interpretation, arguments, etc., which can cause some very serious
- Being proactive in ethics means acknowledging the gap between “ought” and “is”. This gap is an ethics “gap.” “Ought ” is the reason and the motivation to strive to be proactive as opposed now “is.”
Proactive ethics sets the direction, establishes guidelines of accountability, creates a positive environment and the “modus operandi” to keep the organization at the forefront of true business ethics.