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What is Ethical Intelligence in the Workplace?

Reviewing What Others Say About It

I’ve always been attracted to the concepts of Emotional Intelligence and Ethical Intelligence. They are character traits that make for healthy relationships. However, I haven’t given them enough coverage in my blogs as it pertains to ethics in the workplace.

According to ethicist Bruce Weinstein: “Emotionally intelligent people are aware of how they and others feel. Ethically intelligent people know how to use this awareness the right way. Being ethically intelligent doesn't just mean knowing what is right; it also means having the courage to do what is right. Knowing what is right and doing it is a function of integrity.

Writing for HRZONE, Luke Andreski characterizes ethical intelligence as “the ability to make ethical decisions when faced with moral challenges.” He poses the following questions: “Is the influence being exerted by one person over another in a business hierarchy nurturing or exploitative? Is a transaction fair? Are all our actions kind, or do some of them subtly undermine one or another of our colleagues? On any specific occasion, are we being entirely honest?

Emotional intelligence in the workplace informs ethical behavior. Ethics in the workplace is a factor of dealing with others with honesty and integrity. The knowledge of just a few simple steps to take can enhance our ability to interact professionally with others.

In his book Ethical Intelligence, Andreski identifies seven techniques for enhanced ethical thinking. The following summarizes the key techniques.

1. Think first

We must get our thinking done before someone else does it for us. We must be ultra-analytical about the data provided to us, asking such questions as, ‘who benefits from my agreeing with or believing this information?’ ‘What are the motives underlying this message or instruction?’ ‘What is the big picture?’ ‘Where do I fit in all of this?’

2. Embed your thinking in the moral context

Everything a person does falls within the moral context. Morality tells us which of our actions or decisions are good or bad. Moral questions begin by asking ourselves: “How does what we are choosing to do conform to being moral, to having integrity and to doing good?”

Ethical Intelligence

3. Use the language of understanding

Understanding has inbuilt implications of tolerance. It encourages communication rather than the manipulative use of words to seduce or control. Understanding is collaborative. It suggests that together we can achieve a shared vision. Understanding is ethical because it defines knowledge as a shared resource to which we can all gain access.

Understanding is critical to a healthy workplace environment. Employees need to learn how to get along with others and act in productive ways that will foster the objectives of their organization.

4. Be ambitious in your thinking

Andreski asks: Why not seek new and ethical solutions to old and unresolved problems? Why not turn our world around and make it work in brand new ways?

Ethical Intelligence requires skills and mindsets that are essential to provide balance and a means to honestly self-reflect how we are doing in various situations. Acting ethically requires ethical intelligence; acting with honesty and integrity and not just when we "feel" like it, or when nobody's watching, but all the time. All of us make mistakes but it’s how you deal with them and learn from them that is most important. Ethical intelligence can help in that regard.

5. Be honest

Honesty is integral to morality. Dishonesty fundamentally conflicts with the core moral aims of nurturing those around us and in the workplace.

6. Root your thinking in reality

An essential aspect of ‘understanding’ is its basis in evidence and fact. The more closely our personal ‘map of the world’ meshes with reality, the more empowered we are in owning our actions, in understanding what is influencing us, in resisting or accepting this influence… and in being able to contribute ethically to our workplace and our world.

7. Aim for ever greater understanding

Knowledge progresses through achieving ever better descriptions of reality. Far better, then, in our professional lives, to be alert to new evidence, to be prepared to adapt and improve, and to aim, each day, for ever-greater understanding.

Posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 7, 2024. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: Follow him on LinkedIn at: