Myths Preventing Positive Ethical Change

Dr. De Mars is fond of quoting a line by Mark Twain, "It's not the things we don't know that hurt us. It's the things we know that aint so."

This is the case with causing ethical change. There are many myths which stand in our way. The first of these is,

Myth # 1: There is nothing to it.

"Those who fall victim to this misconception believe that changing ethical performance is easy. They are seriously mistaken. Acting normal can be a tough task, as you’ve probably discovered when you tried to do the right thing in the face of peer pressure or were punished for telling the truth. At times, you will be called upon to put aside your self-interest to meet the needs of others, to stand alone, and to endure criticism. You could risk losing your job because you “aren’t a team player” or because you have to bring organizational wrongdoing to the attention of outside authorities” (Johnson, 2007).

Dr. Longie gives an example of cases on two different reservations.

"Both of these individuals tried to take a stand against unethical behavior, enforce policies and procedures. In one instance, a tribal judge stood up against attempts by the tribal council to interfere in court cases. In the other, a school administrator tried to enforce policies and procedures. Teachers who came late or were unprepared for their classes were reprimanded. Students who skipped class and swore at their teachers were warned and then suspended. Both of these people ended up losing their jobs. There were no accusations against them of being incompetent or unethical. Simply, people went to the tribal council or others over their head and complained that they had lost a court case, been fired or their child been suspended. When the time came for renewal of these two individuals' contracts, they were out of a job."

In the Joe the Tribal Worker section of our Ethical Questions forum, several posters give example of individuals on their reservations who engage in unethical behavior routinely and nothing is done.