TI Gives Employees a Quick Test

By Gillian Flynn

Jun. 1, 1995

We all have handy little quizzes to help us make decisions. Some are leftover from childhood-but still effective: Would we do this if Grandma were watching? Others have a more philosophical basis: Can we will this action to be a universal rule for everyone?

Texas Instruments teaches its employees seven steps they can use to determine whether a decision is ethical. The result forms a “quick test” and helps the employee see a decision more objectively-and ethically.

  1. Is the action legal?
    “If it’s not legal then that’s the end of the test,” says Glenn Coleman, manager of ethics communication and education. “You just stop right there because we’re not going to break the law here.”
  2. Does it comply with our values?
    “We have a very clearly stated set of company values. Sometimes an action just won’t fit with them.
  3. “If you do it, will you feel bad?
    “Sometimes you make that decision that kind of hurts in the stomach. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, or it just gnaws on you. That’s a warning flag that you may need to go back and revisit that decision.”
  4. How will it look in the newspaper?
    “If what you were thinking about doing this afternoon were going to appear in the newspaper tomorrow, would you still do it?”
  5. If you know it’s wrong, don’t do it.
  6. If you’re not sure, ask.
  7. Keep asking until you get an answer.
    “If you think something’s wrong, and you don’t want to do it, go ask some questions. Ask your co-workers. Ask TI legal. Ask human resources. Call up the ethics office. Ask, ask, ask. Don’t stand out there and feel like you have to carry all that pressure by yourself.”

Personnel Journal, June 1995, Vol. 74, No. 6, p. 34.

Noted author Gillian Flynn is a former Workforce staff member.

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