We all want to believe that practicing good ethics in both our personal and professional lives is the right thing to do; that we should not wrong, cheat, or defraud others. The reality though is we have allowed unscrupulous ethical practices to creep into our lives like a vine that starts at the root and, if left unchecked, slowly climbs the tree and eventually strangles it. The current recession is indicative of how we are all having to pay a hefty price for ethical corruption, e.g.; companies are closing, people are out of work, houses have been foreclosed, retirement funds are depleted causing people to work longer and creating a crowded job market for young people to enter. Some would say the recession is a simple matter of economics and nothing else. Nonsense.
The recession was created by greed, which lead to bad lending and investment practices, followed by a shell game for hiding losses, along with lies and cover-ups. The problem became so massive that all the king's horses, and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again.
Actually, the recession has done us a favor by uncovering the truth about ethics in business, and hopefully it will be a wake-up call for reform. The lesson here is simple: It costs more to follow a path of unethical business practices than to be honest and do what is right. A "fast buck" is just that, a quick way of making money but it will inevitably cost business and reputations later on (ask a couple of lending institutions if you don't believe me).
Popular media often teaches us that unethical practices are socially acceptable, even "cool," and by doing so they are sewing the seeds of our destruction. I don't see myself as a religious fanatic, but it seems to me that we have lost our way and need to redefine our ethical values and teach them in the office, the classroom, and in the home. People will undoubtedly dismiss such a notion as ridiculous, that their values are just fine thank you, but are they? Do we truly preach such things as honesty, integrity, trust, etc.? Current indicators would suggest otherwise.
Some would suggest that you can only afford to practice ethics in a robust economy (when you have the time and resources to do so). I contend otherwise, that good ethical practices are required for rebuilding an economy. Ethics, quite simply, is good business; it represents satisfied customers, referrals, repeat business, and reduced operating costs. Unethical practices simply sets up a collision course with disaster, maybe not immediately, but inevitable nonetheless.
And God, No, don't let the government get involved with teaching ethics. That would be like allowing the inmates to run the asylum.
TIM'S CRASH COURSE ON ETHICS 101
We all know what is right and wrong, but ethics requires a person with strength and character, something that is somewhat uncommon in this day and age. I'm not going to tell you to keep your word, or to be honest and lead an upright and respectable life; You should know this already. The question is, do you have the fortitude to do so?
Perhaps these simple guidelines will help:
1. Learn to say, "No." It is an incredibly powerful word and something we do not say enough of. At times it may seem awkward and uncomfortable to say, but learn to say "No" nonetheless.
2. Avoid politics. The more entangled you become in them, the more your principles are compromised.
3. Go the extra mile, avoid the temptation to take the easy way out. Short cuts may seem nice, but following the right path is more rewarding in the long run.
4. Write a code of conduct defining how employees are to behave on the job.
5. Recognize and reward ethical behavior; Penalize bad behavior.
6. Report indiscretions, either internally within your company, or to external sources, such as the Better Business Bureau. As a tip, make sure it is well documented. Don't want to report it? Then don't complain or whine about it to others (shut up).
7. Participate in and promote discussions on ethics, either in the office, at home, in school, in civic groups, on the Internet, or wherever. Raise the consciousness on ethics.
8. Last but not least, lead by example. Become a role model for how you want others to behave.
About The Author: Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant located in Palm Harbor, Florida. http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm