Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ethics in Business

Anyone who has followed my blog understands a few basic premises that I feel very passionate about as important character traits. These include:
  • Honesty - if I lost my wallet, could I trust you'd return it when you found it? 
  • Ethics - will you do the right thing, every time,... even if nobody is looking? 
  • Accountability - can you take responsibility for your actions or lack of action? 
  • Stewardship - do you treat my money... like it is your money? 
  • Humility - Can you work as part of a team of equals that shares in the wins, and losses? 
  • Trust - If you learn something that is confidential, can you keep it in confidence? 
  • Initiative - are you self motivated? 
  • Teamwork - can you share your toys, and play well in a sandbox? 
  • Leadership - can you take ownership for a problem, and circle the troops toward a goal? 
Ethics is derived from the term ethos. Ethos is a greek word that means disposition, character, and fundamental values.

Do you have fundamental values? So often I see people that lack in one or another fundamental value. I am as guilty as anyone if failing to meet my own expectations for a moral compass periodically. As I've mentioned in other posts, ethical behavior isn't always the path of least resistance. It may also not be they best way to earn your first million. However, it is the RIGHT THING TO DO.

There are times I've disappointed myself. I was getting gas a few days ago... and I saw a young lady pull up in an old beat-up car that had cardboard on the back window. She pumped $5.00 of gas for the car. At the time, I thought that she must really have it rough, to only get 1.5 gallons of gas. Best case, on that vehicle, it is probably 30 miles of travel. If I'd have done the right thing... I may have offered to help her. As most people, I thought about it... had an opportunity... however I didn't act.

Back to the article...Ethics is really a reflection of one's character. Do you do the right thing? I'm not talking about the "LEGAL" obligation. Legal obligations often don't reflect moral or ethical commitments, they are somewhere below that requirement. Some examples:
  • If your company CAN afford to pay a living wage, and for insurance, but chooses not to do so to keep more profits, and then directs their employees to public assistance, you're probably not being ethical. 
  • If you see something happen that has a negative impact on society or an individual, and say nothing... you're probably not being ethical. 
  • If you pay your employees under the table and convince them that you're saving them taxes, when in reality you're robbing them of their social security benefits, and saving yourself taxes... you got it... probably not ethical. 
  • If you develop a confusing pricing scheme to permit you to get sales by confusing people of the total cost of your product... not ethical. 
  • Taking credit for a staff members contributions... not ethical. Passing blame when you are partially to blame, also... not ethical. 
  • Determining the level of respect to provide someone based on their title, wealth, or beauty vs. valuing them for their humanity. 
Bad things happen in the dark... weather that's the dark corner of a city slum, or a dark corner of the internet. Light fights darkness. By shedding light on inequity, we have a better opportunity to resolve the inequity.