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What to Do When Personal Values Clash With Business Decisions Use these strategies to ensure your business decisions align with your personal values.

By Chris Kille Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Balancing personal values and business decisions is a common challenge for entrepreneurs.
  • This article offers ten strategies to help leaders navigate ethical dilemmas in the business world.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Do you remember the times you were at a crossroads, debating with yourself about a choice that challenged your personal values and your business objectives? You're not alone. Most entrepreneurs experience this kind of strife, but not every entrepreneur will verbalize all of the conflicts.

It is a sophisticated battleground with the lines between correct and wrong so fuzzy, and the choices you make can shape your history. In this article, I'll share a few valuable tips you can use to navigate these situations.

Related: How to Become the Leader You Envision Without Sacrificing Your Values

1. Establish your core values

Determining your core values is a prerequisite in facing ethical obstacles. As a leader, values like integrity, transparency and sustainability can be your guiding principles, which you set not only for yourself but also for your company. When these values are clear and communicated correctly, they become a beacon, helping decision-making processes to be simpler and well-managed. The unambiguousness of those values serves as a yardstick to which all company actions are compared, and thus, everybody in the organization knows what is expected of them.

2. Understand the baggage right away

One of the most important skills for any leader is to be able to tell when his/her personal beliefs are at odds with business decisions. A lot of times, the first indication of an ethical challenge is a feeling of discomfort. This unease is not just a matter of emotion; it is a sign of your conscience, which is telling you that your values are being compromised. Acknowledging it early on is a must for you because it gives you the time to analyze the situation carefully, and you won't make any rash decisions. It gives you an opportunity to form a strategy that is in line with your moral values.

3. Seek multiple perspectives

Ethical problems frequently do not yield simple responses, and what looks right one way around may not appear to be so from another point of view. Therefore, seeking several points of view is necessary. Connect with mentors, friends or any group with different perceptions to have more diverse opinions. Such a process can disclose new insights and may even bring in solutions that you would have never thought of. Another key advantage is that it makes sure the decision-making process is not only based on one set of experiences and backgrounds, which helps prevent the risk of bias.

4. Evaluate long-term impact

It may be tempting for a moment, but these shortcuts have long-term effects. When faced with a decision, it's important to ask yourself about the long-term impacts: What is the consequence of this choice on my business in the next five, ten and twenty years? Would it hurt my reputation or my relationship with other people? Such aspects are crucial because they facilitate the drive toward sustainable growth and the observance of ethical standards, which are usually the pillars of longevity.

5. Create ethical safeguards

To avoid ethical conflicts and have your decisions a posteriori, that is, consistent with your business ethics, put in place robust ethical safeguards in your business operations. This could be a part of the process of creating an ethics committee or establishing a decision framework that focuses on your core values. This way, ethical principles are practically accessible to everyone through the organization's hierarchy, and every decision is subjected to ethical scrutiny.

Related: Holding True to Your Values Is an Essential Decision-Making Metric

6. Be honest and open with your team

Transparency forms the basis for the establishment and strengthening of trust among team members. When an ethical crisis emerges, admitting the difficulties and how they might affect both personal and business values establishes a precedent of transparency and openness. Such honesty and openness will become a criterion for your enterprise culture. This is not just about trust building but also helping to develop a more engaged and ethically aware employee.

7. Integrate ethics into your brand

Nowadays, consumers are more and more inclined to buy from companies that have a code of ethics. Incorporating ethics into your brand's storyline will make your business stand out and increase consumer confidence. This synergy builds a deeper connection with the audience because they believe that they are interacting with a brand that reflects their virtues.

8. Get ready to make tough decisions

Balancing personal ethics with business decisions sometimes demands making tough decisions. This might imply declining attractive chances or dissolving cooperation with efficient associates. These decisions are always hard, but they usually have to be done to preserve one's integrity. The respect and loyalty gained from customers and employees in making these decisions can often far exceed the costs involved.

9. Consider and memorize every decision

Every decision is a learning experience. Analyzing the effectiveness of your choices — what worked, what didn't and how you can improve — contributes to enhanced decision-making skills. Such a learning process is of utmost importance for more successful and confident dealings with future ethical issues.

10. Lead by example

Leadership is more about walking the talk than giving orders. Through constant decision-making that supports your ethical principles, you become an effective role model for your team. This leadership style not only cultivates an ethical positive climate but also inspires your team to uphold these standards in their own decision-making.

Related: Here's Why Values Matter So Much in Business

It is not easy to navigate the dangerous waters where personal values and business decisions come together. Nonetheless, when you remain true to your core values, look for different opinions and consider making tough decisions, you can be assured that your business not only prospers but also contributes positively to the world around you.

Do not forget that the purpose of your business is not only to be successful but also to create a business that will speak for your values. This approach does not merely resolve clashes; it turns them into opportunities for growth. Rely on your ethics, and you will build a better business world with more ethical and prosperous firms.

Chris Kille

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder at EO Staff

Chris Kille in Boston, MA, innovates in business efficiency, focusing on Virtual Assistant services and Payment Processing tech. He identifies growth opportunities and streamlines operations to enhance profitability. Chris values networking for success and fosters partnerships for speedy growth.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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