Leon Hulse, Mike Hugo, Lily Purimitla, Laura Straub, Ju Hee Shin, Rachel Quick,Danny Yip
AJ. Shawna Warner
Group Research Paper: Group Ethics
Throughout this semester, the Small Group Communication class has been studying various topics regarding the different aspects of groups. Groups, to most living individuals, is an important concept that penetrates our lives in many different ways. We have friend groups, family groups, work groups, project groups, and even game groups. Regardless of our willingness, the concept of groups will always be a major part of life. With that said, it is crucial for each individual to understand the different aspects of a group, which is the foundation behind this research paper. This paper is written with the intention of gaining an insight on the different features of groups and to demonstrate the application of theories learned in class. The paper will begin with ethical leadership, which is followed by a discussion on personal ethics in group decision making, and will end with multicultural group ethics.
Leaders can be categorized into different groups according to behaviours and, in most occasions, it is not only the leader who defines the nature of leadership, but also those who are actively participating within the team that alter leadership behaviour. Gary Yukl in his book Leadership in Organizations writes about three different types of leadership behaviour: task-oriented, relations-oriented and participative leadership (Yukl 107-08). In an ideal setting, a leader would have a balance between all these behaviours. However, most of the time… Now, we know that in order to be able to lead and direct ethically, one must understand the responsibility and the core meaning of what ethical leadership is. Ethics is a principle of conduct that acts to govern those who are under it (“Ethic”). In order to understand ethical leadership it is important to first understand the meaning of ethics and how culture of an organization highly affects it.
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Ethical leadership can be seen as the code of conduct, laws, policies and values that leaders follow in order to emphasize a concern for the interest of others and respecting the members as not just instruments in the group, but as whole and complete members of the team. With that, four theories of Ethical Leadership will be discussed in this section, which include ethical pluralism, communitarianism, authentic leadership and transformational leadership.
First, the term “ethical pluralism” refers to a formed idea that there are numerous ways of defining what is morally right or wrong, and not all of them will match an individual’s personal norms (“Ethical Pluralism”). This implies that pluralism does not refer to several perspectives of the same thing but, in general, having several theories according to different leaders and settings. Moreover, this theory advances that there is “a plurality of moral norms that cannot be reduced to one basic norm” (Schaber 1).
Next, the paper will discuss the idea of “communitarianism.” Inthe Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, it is stated that “communitarians argued that the standards of justice must be found in forms of life and traditions of particular societies and hence can vary from context to context” (Bell). This means that both the views of people and leaders in a group are dependent on the various interpretations of the societies they belong to. This theory focuses more on the rights of the group as a whole rather than the individuals in a group (“Communitarian Ethics”). A leader who employs this approach emphasises the common good of all people, recognising all the dimensions of a living human being in a society. A communitarian leader encourages moral reasoning, ethical dialogue, collaborative leadership and development of moral character.
The next topic to be addressed is that of “authentic leadership”. Leaders who fully believe in themselves and trust their ability as they are true to themselves are known as authentic leaders. Moreover, these leaders allow and empower group development by encouraging individual members. This theory believes that an authentic leader should possess certain characteristics. Michael Hyatt, author of Authentic Leadership, writes that an authentic leader possesses insight, demonstrates initiative, exudes influence, has impact in his or her action and manifests integrity (Hyatt). There are still more features of an authentic leader as the context of the leader’s culture plays a vital role in determining the leadership traits.
The final theory of ethical leadership is “transformational leadership”. This is defined as a leadership approach that causes change in individuals and social systems. “It is a relatively new approach to leadership that focuses on how leaders can create valuable and positive change in their followers,” writes David Burkus in his article “Transformational Leadership Theory.“We can infer that this theory is helpful in leaders who are of the new age; leaders who are able to use traditional methods and theories to purposefully transform them for the betterment of the team or any setting they are a part of.
With that, this research paper has finished its discussion on ethical leadership, which includes the four elements of ethical pluralism, communitarianism, authentic leadership and transformational leadership. These are, in short, basic theories that aid in understanding ethical leadership and how leaders can carefully employ one or multiple aforementioned theories to improve the performance and effectiveness of a system.
Personal Ethics in Group Decision Making
Writing in the context of organizational communication, Pamela Shockley-Zalabak identified decision-making as one of the most important functions of a group (252). However, good decision-making requires sound information (262), which in turn requires that group members communicate not only effectively (262), but also ethically (117). Shockley-Zalabak describes four habits of ethical communication that can be applied in most communicative situations (117).
The first of these habits, which were developed by Rebecca Rubin and Jess Yoder based on work by Karl Wallace, is called the “Habit of Search” (117). This habit explores the idea of detailed research, working as a type of magnifying glass to analyze information that is taken into the group. Using this technique, groups can excavate into information received to decipher the smallest details so as not to miss any important facts. This can be used in decision making to analyze the problems that the group is facing, especially in regards to highly controversial issues. The idea here is that issues should not be oversimplified and should be looked at in all their parts. Tying this into ethics, the implementation of this habit leaves less room for faulty or inaccurate information. Each issue is looked at extensively through this lens to ensure there is no discrepancies in the facts received.
The second habit is called the “Habit of Justice” (117). This habit also has to do with analysis of information, but on a different level. This habit allows for a much broader research database. There is more openness to different kinds of sources of information. The focus is not so much on specific information received as on the range of diverse accurate information. The focus here is more on the ethical side of making sure that all information is accurately portrayed and is fairly examined. This habit does not allow for discrimination, bias, or prejudice in regards to the evaluation of information. The main point is for the meaning of the information to remain undistorted by the opinions or bias of individuals. As in the name, justice and truth or accuracy are very important factors here.
The third habit is called the “habit of public versus private motivations” (117). This habit is concerned primarily with transparency. It suggests that the ethical course of action during communication is to be open about motives and agendas and to clearly identify any potential for bias, conflicts of interest, or other factors that could exert an influence on the speaker’s perspective. It could also be as simple as identifying where a piece of information comes from. This allows the group to assign the information the proper weight in their discussion, rather than relying too heavily on biased information. For example, a group member who is closely related to one of the candidates under consideration by the group for interviewing for a class project should let the relationship be known.
The final habit is “respect for dissent” (117). This means that rather than viewing different perspectives as threats and trying to squash them, the individual welcomes and even encourages them. By taking time to consider all aspects of the problem or explore more options for the decision, the group is better able to come to a solid solution or make an informed decision, rather than settling on a less effective course of action too quickly. Having a group atmosphere where it is safe and accepted to voice contrary viewpoints also helps to avoid groupthink (Rothwell 254). An example of this would be for a planning committee to consider suggestions for alternative dates for an event. By considering all factors, they could avoid causing scheduling conflicts or inconveniences that might have been overlooked if they just went with the first suggestion.
Shockley-Zalabak summarized these habits in this way: “Ethical communication behaviors promote participation, transparency, and accountability and support courageous actions” (118). Practicing these habits in small group communication will not guarantee a good decision, but it will at least lay the foundations for good decision-making.
Multicultural Group Ethics
The meaningful success that can result from a diverse group of individuals has been a topic researched and challenged by many scholars throughout the years. Diversity extends itself across a wide spectrum that includes differences in ethnicities, gender, age, background, experiences, values, and culture (Rothwell 84). Everyone may approach one given situation differently, especially within an intercultural setting or when one set of ethics meets another. Ethics exist at the core of a person, the moral principles that govern one’s own behavior (“Ethic”). In addition, “ethics refers to the personal overarching moral perspectives derived from philosophical or religious instruction or inform our day-to-day behavior” (Knapp).
The challenge that this topic presents is how does ethics exist in a multicultural group? A researcher in multicultural studies, Malcolm MacDonald, has noted a shift in one’s self-consciousness as they begin to recognize differences in beliefs, attitudes and values that are present in a multicultural setting. He suggests two things can happen at this point, either one can tolerate these differences or embrace these differences (MacDonald 3). Multicultural educators are often found teaching these practices in order to create the needed cohesion within multicultural settings/groups. On the other hand, other researchers have identified the commonality of discrimination and rejection of individuals that takes place based on one’s differences and beliefs (Kymlicka 153). Albeit, these three options of tolerating, embracing, or rejecting the differences found in others, leads into the concept of the overall ethics of a group.
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One’s own personal ethics will undoubtedly directly influence the ethics of a group. For example, Jane is a part of a multicultural group that has agreed upon not disclosing any of the group’s information until after the work has been presented to the public. In doing this, each member will be showing their loyalty to all the other group members. This is a sign of the group creating its own set of ethics. Jane immediately agreed upon this notion because loyalty remains within her personal ethics. Within Jane’s culture, there is a strong ethical code of truthfulness that she stands strong beside. During a group meeting, there was discussion on having just one person do the group’s entire work even though there were specific instructions that one person did not do all of the work. Following this, the group went ahead with just one person doing all of the work and reported at the end that everyone did their own part. Through this process, Jane rejected this group ethic by refusing to agree upon this, however, the group just continued onward.
An important aspect within multicultural group ethics is creating a safe place where each member has confidence within the group that ideas will not be torn down or dismissed for any given reason. However, a group ethic of trust can be built to ensure that everyone feels comfortable to share his or her thoughts. Creating an open place for communication to take place. Stepping outside of one individual’s viewpoint for the success of the group is key -as long as it is not harmful-one must remember to never dismiss who they truly are and what they believe in the process.
Indeed, multicultural group ethics requires communication from all group members in order for success to take place. Creating an open place for multicultural differences to weave themselves in the overall group for its success is a process whereby the group creates its own set of ethics that will lead all of its members down a united path.
Once again, this paper is written so that insights regarding the various aspects of a group can be gained. This paper began by pondering the topic of ethical leadership and four theories derived from this particular topic. Next, the paper analyzed the topic of personal ethics in group decision making based on the work produced by Shockley-Zalabak and several other scholars. To end, the paper examined multicultural group ethic, which meditates on the idea of creating a diverse yet harmonious group; a group that develops its own set of ethics that will allow all members to remain unified. Lastly, it must be emphasized yet again that the concept of group will always be present in many aspects of our lives. Therefore, it is of utmost significance that an individual seeks to understand this concept to the best of his or her ability.
Bell, Daniel. “Communitarianism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Summer 2016 ed., edited by Edward N. Zalta, 21 Mar. 2016, plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2016/ entries/communitarianism. Accessed 2 Mar. 2017.
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