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College of Business BELIEF program can help good people to make wise decisions via ‘tests’

February 21, 2013
William McCoy

William McCoy

by William McCoy, director, BELIEF Initiative

Why do good people sometimes make bad decisions?

Often it is because they are thrust into a situation where they feel compelled to act in a way that hasn’t been fully thought through. Consequences are not considered. Bad decisions are typically made in haste or when there is significant personal stake involved.

These factors make people either unable or unwilling to evaluate the ramifications of their actions. And as a result, actions may not be in the best interest of principle guidelines or worse, they may be a clear violation of the law.

The NIU College of Business BELIEF Program has developed a decision-making guide to help individuals think through and process the consequences of an action or decision. The guide is a culmination of various sources and common sense.

Steps include:

  • Determining the facts and stating the problem.
  • Ascertaining the stakeholders.
  • Identifying relevant factors.
  • Developing a list of three to five options.

Once you have developed various options to deal with the ethical dilemma, a “test” is used to determine which option emerges as the right solution. These “tests” include (but are not limited to):

  • Legality test. Is this option legal? If not, stop here!
  • Publicity test. Would I want my choice of this option published in the newspaper?
  • Mom test. What would my mom say if she learned of this option?

Utilizing several of these test options prior to finalizing a decision will help when dealing with ethical dilemmas. Remember: good people can make bad decisions. Utilizing these steps can minimize the chances of that scenario.

Businessweek magazine ranked the NIU College of Business second in the nation for its ability to weave the teaching of ethics into a solid business school education. The college, and its acclaimed BELIEF Initiative, has been ranked among the top three in that category for the last three years.