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[ 2010-06-04 ]

For ethical answers ask a woman — they’ve got more integrity
Research is casting new light on what is moral and ethical,
take our test and discover your moral profile
London (UK) – 04 June 2010 – The Times - The term “ethical
values” has become a much-used one, although admittedly
usually to say: “MPs and bankers don’t have any.”
Increasingly, though, scientists are starting to build a
picture of what guides our ethical decisions and our
willingness, or not, to follow rules. The findings have
important consequences for policymakers.

Research compiled with the help of more than 30,000 readers
of The Times in 162 countries suggests that our ethics
change with age and gender. Roger Steare, professor of
organisational ethics at Cass Business School in London,
said the research showed that our principled conscience
developed as we aged. “Basically, as we grow older we become
better at making decisions,” he said. Our principled
conscience is our “integrity” and tends to be based on
honesty, courage and patience.

Women were found to have more highly developed social
consciences and tended to be better at making decisions that
would benefit everyone. This type of conscience tended to be
fixed from our late teens to early 20s.

But perhaps most interestingly, the research showed that we
do not like to follow rules. Too many rules and we stop
taking responsibility for our actions.

Professor Steare said: “If you tell grown-ups what to do,
they may well comply with the letter of the law, but not
with the spirit of it. It is better to sit down and build a
consensus. Then people want to do it because it is what is
right for the group.” Now he and his colleagues have
developed a test that looks at how moral values such as
self-control, trust, love, humility, honesty, fairness and
wisdom affect our ethics and willingness to follow rules.

You can take the short, multiple-choice questionnaire
and you receive a report showing how you rate for the
different moral values and your ethical profile.

Early results based on 3,000 respondents are interesting and
show that the more senior a leader the less rule-compliant
they tend to be.

“This has big implications. Regulation doesn’t work. Those
who lead in government, business and charities tend to be
very independent minded,” Professor Steare said.

“More governance is not the answer. It is over-focusing on
systems, rules and processes. We need to focus on character,
judgment and behaviour, not box ticking.”

The early research also showed that “trust is actually
undermined by rule compliance. The more rules, the more you
destroy trust. This is crucial as we look to rebuild trust
in banking and politics,” he said.

But it isn’t all negative. The early results also suggested
that Generation Y was very ethical. The plan now is to try
to accumulate enough data to show how ethical
characteristics vary by occupation and whether there are
cultural difficulties, too.

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