Ethics and Business

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Ethics is talked about when something bad happens. Just this past week, Equifax announced that the private information of over 143 million people was stolen by a computer hacker. There is no doubt the information is being sold in the “dark market” of the internet. What compounds the problem of the security breach. I am not drawing the conclusion the executives knew about the breach before they sold their stock, but it does raise serious ethical questions.

Stories like this seem to happen several times every year. Ethical decisions are made by businesses every day. The strong ethical of an organization builds a culture of strong ethics so that when a situation occurs, there is no doubt what the right things to do is. People in strong ethical organizations do the right things, even when they are not required to do it. Ethics in business is part leadership and part culture of the organization. The lessons and culture have to be reinforced every day. Here are five key ways to build ethics:

  1. Teach and learn. Ethical behavior is taught and modeled. If employees are treated ethically in the workplace as a core value, it leads to modeling what is expected, and the lessons permeate the organization. The other key element is teaching and modeling ethical behavior in actions toward customers. If employees understand the right thing is always going to be done for customers and employees have the ability and power to do the right things, the reputation of the business only grows in the market. Ethical treatment of employees and customers is the foundation.
  2. Share the outcomes. When everyone is included in the success and failure of a project, event or outcome, there is more “buy-in.” Challenges draw out the best in people. Ethical leaders bring everybody along and employees feel a sense of appreciation and contribution to the success.
  3. Envision the future. Many of us have participated in vision statements, but seldom do we hear a discussion about ethics or how to treat employees and customers. Ethical behavior has to become part of what the business or organization wants to become. If it is not discussed on a regular basis, ethics gets pushed to the back.
  4. No gray areas. When doing the right thing is stressed over and over again, gray areas disappear. Most businesses get in trouble when ethics enter a “gray” area when it comes to doing the right thing. The slippery slope leads to other challenges for the organization. Avoid ambiguity. Make attitudes and outcomes clear and easy to understand.
  5. Shine a spotlight on your ethics. There is nothing like being held accountable. Shine a spotlight on your core values and challenge people to look at your business or organization to see if you are living up to your standards. The spotlight can be humbling and an awakening to where you fall short.

The successful business or organization makes ethics a part of their core values and there are no questions or doubts about how to treat employees or customers. Are you part of an ethical business?

See you in McAllen!

As Featured in the Monitor September 17, 2017