Everyday Ethics

Ethics is a hot button issue. Unfortunately we too often use an ethic’s filter to judge other people’s behaviour. The media sometimes confuses ethics with laws or rules and regulations.  When “ethics” is co-opted by religious groups – as in Christian values – it distracts from the real difficulty of leading an ethical life.

There are no simple answers. Ethical thinking can be hard. But like any difficult task it is easier when you train and practice. Everyday Ethics examines the types of problems we often encounter and deal with. They are not life threatening. Sometimes we recognize the “ethics” in the problem. Other times we only feel the pain that comes from not knowing the absolute best solution. Other times we resolve the issue with nary a pause. Using an ethic’s filter to examine our own actions builds character and confidence.

To explore everyday ethical issues presented as an “advice column” please select Everyday Ethics from the category list to the right.


Bad breath boss

Dear Michelle

I have a great job – but there is just one problem. My boss is a close talker and his breath is terrible. I don’t mean coffee breath or pizza for lunch but all day long just plain bad. I don’t want to hurt his feelings but it is really unpleasant. In all other regards he is an excellent boss and mentor. I thought I might leave a bottle of mouthwash on his desk as a gentle hint or leave him an anonymous note. But I really don’t know how to proceed. What should I do?

Holding my breath

Continue reading “Bad breath boss”

Teacher’s dilemma

Dear Michelle

I have just started teaching college students and I thought it was important to make my expectations very clear at the outset. I explained that it was my policy to set a deadline for assignments and that I would not give extensions. Late or missed assignments would receive a zero grade. When asked if there could ever be exceptions I said that it was possible but to not rely on it. If bad things happened letting me know as early as possible was the best way to find a resolution. No one assignment was  worth more that 5% of the overall grade. I told them that the best way to deal with a hard deadline was to get the work done as early as possible.

Several weeks into the course one of my best (and one of my favourite) students came to my office to tell me she had missed the deadline because – and she proceeded to tell me a story that I had no reason to disbelieve and that would understandably result in her missing the deadline. She asked for an extension. Having to make a decision on the fly I told her that there was no harm in asking. I thanked her for explaining what had happened but that my policy was clear and she would receive zero.

But now I wonder if I did the right thing?


Continue reading “Teacher’s dilemma”


Organizations of any size, but particularly large bureaucratic institutions, can fall prey to a cultural norm I call FLEE.

The Fault Lies Elsewhere Excuse is so prevalent that we almost don’t notice it. It occurs when a user or customer has a problem or complaint. The first person contacted acknowledges that there is a problem and then proceeds to explain to the stakeholder how the Fault Lies Elsewhere. Continue reading “FLEE”

The Devil Made Me Do It

good_vs_evil_warfare_400_clr_6236Let’s assume for a moment that there is a Supreme Being. Let’s call this entity IT – not to be confused with Stephen King’s novel about a sewer dwelling evil clown named Pennywise.

According to the story,  IT decided to confer the Truth on one person. Put aside for a moment your curiosity as to why IT as Supreme Being didn’t simply tell everyone. (The rumor is that most people couldn’t handle the Truth.) In any event, IT decided to share the secret with the chosen one – henceforth referred to as CO. (Feel free to substitute your favourite variation about the CO.) Continue reading “The Devil Made Me Do It”

How Will They Learn? (Team Work)

push_the_bullseye_400_clr_18524If the school system seems inadequate to the task of instilling problem solving skills surely they will do better at team building. All those young people in the same place with the same goals. It screams team work!

 Would it be fair to assume that in order to teach team skills the instructors must be team players? Since teachers and professors are products of the school system they will only succeed to the extent that the school system succeeded – well you can see the problem.

Continue reading “How Will They Learn? (Team Work)”