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Be Self-Aware to Make More-Ethical Decisions

A woman is looking at her phone while sitting at a table.

​Human resource professionals need to protect staff in an ethical way, even through such difficult times as terminations and layoffs. To do this, you need self-awareness and the ability to separate personal feelings from business priorities, according to Chas Fields, senior partner in the HCM advisory group at Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG) in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Self-Reflection for Self-Awareness

Chas Fields, senior partner in the HCM advisory group at Ultimate Kronos Group

Speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022 in New Orleans on June 13, Fields asked attendees to reflect on the following questions:

  • When am I at my best?
  • What kind of person do I want to be today?
  • What situations make me feel terrible, and what do they have in common?
  • What activities am I doing when it feels like time flies by?
  • What is working well in my life and work today?
  • If I had a magic wand, where would I be in three months?
  • If I change nothing, what will my life look like three months from now? How does that make me feel?
  • What actions, if taken, would make me proud of myself, regardless of the outcome?
  • When negative thoughts arise, how do I deal with them?
  • How do I stay grounded when I feel overwhelmed?
  • What motivates me?

Distinguishing Ethics from Morality

Fields said HR professionals can make more-ethical decisions at work if they're able to distinguish ethics from morality.

"You have to be able to separate the personal from the professional," Fields said. That will give HR "clarity to answer hard questions."

Ethics are external rules that may vary between environments, he noted, while morals are personal principles that rarely change.

'Question Everything'

Fields urged attendees to "question everything," including years-old mission statements and decisions made routinely each day. Ask whether they are ethical, he said.

Fields added that in reviewing an organization's ethical standards, HR should question whether the standards are:

  • Honest.
  • Integral.
  • Impactful.

Ethics should start at the top, and leaders should be sure to listen to workers, according to Fields. He has seen board members make changes without asking employees how those changes will impact them; then when companies have difficulty with retention, they ask HR to "fix this." Fields noted that in a UKG survey, 86 percent of employees thought that people in their organizations were not heard fairly or equally.


As part of an ethical workplace, employers should be as transparent as possible, Fields added. If expectations shift, tell workers, he said.

Employees should know what their pay band is and what their promotion opportunities are, he added.

Moreover, make ethical decisions as employees juggle their responsibilities outside the workplace with those faced on the job. If a parent must be late to work because a child has to be taken to an appointment, the employer should "meet the employee where they're at," Fields stated.

That said, the employee should know that they are expected to show up when they said they would, and they should stay later to make up the time.


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