Blanchard and Peale (favourite!)

Some ‘frameworks’ have been designed to assist decision makers by asking questions to help resolve the variety of issues that need to be considered in weighing up a decision.

Our favourite for many years is perhaps one of the simplest. Indeed the reason it can be effective – and we have mentioned it to many business managers and others – is that it is relatively simple.

Be warned though that just because it does not involve too many steps does not make the deliberations any easier!


Blanchard (‘One Minute Manager’) and Peale in their 1988 book ‘The Power of Ethical Management’ suggest most people basically know right from wrong but put themselves into stressful situations because they have knowingly made unethical decisions.

They suggest ‘it is easy to charge ahead without thinking and then rationalise your behaviour after the event. But the fact of the matter is THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO DO A WRONG THING”.


Blanchard and Peale contend that the very existence of a “grey area” between right and wrong is no excuse for dispensing with ethics.

They suggest that much of the “greyness” can be taken out of ethical dilemmas by taking the time to weigh up a decision.


Blanchard & Peale suggest an Ethics Check – answering three questions when faced with an ethical problem.

If the answer to any of the three questions is NEGATIVE, the decision should be the same.

1. Is it legal? Will I be violating either civil law or company policy?

2. Is it balanced? Is it fair to all concerned in the short term as well as the long term? Does it promote win-win relationships?

3. How will it make me feel about myself? Will it make me feel proud? Would I feel good if my decision was published in the newspaper? Would I feel good if my family knew about it?


Perhaps the third question is the toughest!! Taking the right option requires a certain degree of inner strength and confidence.

Polonius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet advises his son prior to Laertes embarking on a boat to Paris:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Or as Erich Fromm put it more recently:

“Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others”.

There are many more such ‘ethics tests’ or ‘decision making frameworks’, many far more complex than this one. But we have found that this one has helped many deal with their respective situations.

Of course the test fails if the third question:

3. How will it make me feel about myself? Will it make me feel proud? Would I feel good if my decision was published in the newspaper? Would I feel good if my family knew about it?

… does NOT result in the decision maker feeling any sense of personal remorse from pursuing or considering pursuing a course of action which others may perceive as wrong.

As Prof Alejo Sison, EBEN President, a renowned business ethics philosopher, points out that :

“the steps outlined  are themselves dependent on the kind of person one is. An ‘ethical’ person would define, select and apply standards differently from an ‘unethical’ person. In other words, we can never be “objective” to the extent that we are able to rid ourselves of our ethical dimension, nor is this desirable”.


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