When you think of ethics, what do you think of?  When you go to a business, do you make your decision to do business with them based on price alone?  Product selection?  Treatment by employees?  Does ethics even make it on the list for you?

Many businesses believe strongly in the ideals of operating in a fair and ethical manner.  They understand that by following good ethics they are less likely to experience conflicts with laws and are more likely to attract loyal employees, suppliers and customers.  So most businesses expect all members of their organization to operate in an ethical manner.

What is ethics?  Simply stated, ethics is knowing the difference between right and wrong and deciding to do the right thing.  It includes upholding qualities of personal integrity, such as honesty, fairness and truthfulness.  As an employee at a business it is your own personal integrity while at work that is something only YOU can control.  This includes the following:

  • Cheating, stealing and deception undermine trust and should not be tolerated.  When you or the organization says something will happen, it should happen as stated.  If you promise to someone that you will do something, and then run into an obstacle, go back to that person and explain the difficulty.  Then see how you can move forward to make good on your promise!
  • Lies and trickery are poison to ANY organization.  If you do not know the answer, simply say so! Admit that you do not know or that you cannot answer.  Then – if possible – go find out the answer from those in the management / authority chain above you and convey the right answer when possible!
  • As you represent the business you work in, consider the interests of others.  That does not mean you give co-workers, vendors or others everything they want.  But it does mean that you are respectful of others, and you will take time to weigh their needs and even discuss with them your thought process as you seek to resolve a conflict between them and you or the business.
  • You should pursue the organization’s interests, free from secret motives to advance others (or yourself).  In addition you should not be bad-mouthing the business you work for (after all, you represent them and are a part of the organization).  That doesn’t mean you keep quiet when you see areas of improvement – speak up to your management and let them work as appropriate to address the issue.  Oh – and if it is not addressed the way YOU think it should be addressed, don’t take it so personally!  There are probably pieces of the puzzle you were not aware of that influenced the decision.

To know what is the right and ethical thing to do is not easy in every situation (and at times in most any strange situation).  Conflicting interests and differing points of view may be present.  For example, a coworker might ask you to send an email stating that he or she was present at the office when in fact they were not.  They may tell you they needs you to tell this “white lie” so they can claim to an insurance company that their car was in the company parking lot when it was dented.  What should you do?

There are good ways to resolve ethical questions like this.  If you are not sure what is the right thing to do, seek help (and by this I don’t mean ask each and every coworker their opinion of what to do!).  Perhaps you could ask your supervisor (and this may be appropriate since they can mediate issues and have additional resources they can lean on in strange situations).  Ultimately help can be available by consulting higher levels of management, a human resource department or even the legal branch of your company.

If you believe you have not been given thoughtful guidance, it is OK to be persistent in a tactful way while seeking advice from the proper authority within your company.  An important part of ethical behavior is being diligent in seeking to find the right outcome for any disagreement or controversy.  Just remember, if it is not the outcome YOU think it should be, don’t become Debbie Downer or Donnie Downer.  You probably are not the authority of all things ethical (I know I am not).

If you maintain your own personal integrity, you not only help your organization; you build a reputation that will reward you throughout your career.  And this is something you can control.  You can take the high road!  You will make a difference in your outlook and the way others perceive you.  Thoughts?  Leave a comment!


 

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