When Ethical Business Decisions Require Your Little Professor…

Your Little Professor

Maybe we all know what this means or maybe none of us do.

I attended a discussion seminar last night about ethical business decisions in my profession as a lawyer/mediator. It got me considering how grey the topic can be, and upon listening to my colleagues wrestle with some example fact patterns, I came up with my own definition of what ethical conduct means to me:

“In my profession, as a mediator, I must sign off on a process that incorporates an ethical baseline, at least one that I am comfortable with.”

You may rightly say that this avoids the question.

You may ask, what is my ethical baseline? Good question!

However, what this accomplishes is the acknowledgement that there is a standard to which one should beholden to.

Next, is the determination of what that standard should be?

To assist in this quest, look to the sources that people rely on generally whether it be based in religion, philosophy, law or other disciplines.

Then, narrow your focus. What is it that your business colleagues say about the proper way of deciding issues that have some ethical content?

Perhaps your profession has a set of rules or a code to regulate conduct. Usually, these rules are based on years of experience in dealing with difficult issues. It is always a good idea to review them once in a while.

The situation that you face has probably been experienced by senior members of your business community and instructions as to the best handling of them may have been codified.

Okay, so now we know there may be some rules out there that can guide us.

Does this answer the question?

Well, maybe yes, maybe no.

I would suggest that information like this provides a good guide to ethical decision making.

However, the next and arguably most important step is running ethical decisions by your rational thought process and the “Little Professor.”

Rational thought is the logical process of analytical processing.

You may debate in your mind, the aspects of the situation, using all of the above information to come to a conclusion of where your ethical barometer should be placed.

Debate and consideration are always good ways to formulate a policy or decision, but we must not forget the “Little Professor.”

Well my use of the term is adapted and slightly modified from the reference to it in psychology. In my context, I refer to your inner intuitive self.

Most of us know what we think is right and what is wrong, with little need for research.

Our inner Little Professor sends us signals and provides us with guidance and warning 24/7. Some call it “our gut” sense.

Many writers suggest that these signals may in many circumstances be more reliable than long thought-out analysis.

While that point is still being considered by mind-masters, I would suggest that when looking for your ethical baseline, look inward, for the answer may already be resting in the chambers of your intuitive Little Professor self.

I guess I did answer the earlier question after all, for, if I feel uncomfortable about something in my business life, it may be a signal to then have a logical look at what is going on and see if there is an ethical standard about to be breached.

While ethics are in my view important in a civilized society, there are other positive things that we as business people can do to support our communities at home or abroad, but that is another discussion for another day.

Bryce Jeffery

About the Author, Bryce Jeffery

Bryce Jeffery

Bryce Jeffery has practiced law in BC for 28 years and been a commercial mediator for the last 14. Situated in Langley, he practices under the title, MB JEFFERY LAW and concentrates on conveyancing, mortgages, and wills and estates. Bryce's mediation practice makes him the most travelled mediator in BC with frequent stops throughout the interior, the north and Vancouver Island. He is also the author of Commercial Mediation, A Passionate Practice.

Visit his website at www.mbjlaw.ca to see how he can assist you and your business.


  • Thank you for the reminder to look inward. When we are faced with difficult decisions, we often don’t trust ourselves and our guts enough and ended up doing what we *think* we are supposed to do even if something is nagging at us… and of course following that little nagging would have brought us to the right action. When we feel that little nagging, it’s time to question rather than to discount it.

    • True Ling, and we also need to look at simply what is right and what is wrong and not make emotional decisions just because we are annoyed or upset. Getting to a calm place and rationally thinking things through, listening to your gut for the right answer, is a much better way to approach a decision-making process than doing a knee-jerk reaction that can do much more harm in the long run.

Maybe we all know what this means or maybe none of us do. I attended a discussion seminar last night about ethical business decisions in my profession as a lawyer/mediator. It got me considering how grey the topic can be, … Continued