That uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach could signal that an issue presents an ethical danger.
When we make decisions the focus tends to be on rational analyses.
Most ethical decision-making models ask us to consider facts, alternatives, consequences, duties and values.We also use these to explain or justify our decisions to others. But rational analysis is only part of the picture.
Intuition also plays a role, with some even arguing that we may use rational analysis only to justify our intuitive decisions.
Intuition has been described as automated expertise or tacit knowledge that has been synthesised subconsciously, appearing as an emotional response to a situation.
It does not involve an orderly process that is logically developed or justified, but as a feeling: something just doesn’t feel right!
Our intuition can help us because it can make us feel uncomfortable and alert us to the ethical content of an issue.
An uneasy feeling can help us identify that we’re actually facing an ethical issue, especially at work, where ethical issues tend to be masked and presented as purely economic phenomena.
Intuition may help us do the right thing but it is not to be trusted blindly. Like our thinking, our intuition may also be biased.
So while it is important to pay attention to our intuition when it alerts us to the existence of the ethical issue, it is also important to consider the issue consciously and rationally.
"Like our thinking, our intuition may also be biased." - Eva Tsahuridu
Our intuition is coloured by what we experienced in the past and how we categorised these experiences.
We should be interrogating our intuition to understand it and make sure it does not suffer from biases.
If I have been rewarded for taking credit for someone else’s work in the past or did not suffer any negative consequences, I may adopt this way of behaving.
My intuition may not alert me to the ethical issue, but that does not mean ethical issues do not exist.
We can try to develop possible reasons for a decision based on intuition, but also develop reasons that would satisfy alternative decisions.
While rationality and a gut feeling may not individually lead to an optimum ethical decision, they can inform each other and our actions.
This article is from the November 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.