This year I have had more young professionals relay concerns about “Business Ethics”. As they start at the bottom of the corporate ladder, they have already seen some actions and behavior that has made them wonder, what would they do when they become “decision makers”. It is their understanding that when they reach that level, it will be their responsibility to make decisions on workplace behavior and questionable actions brought to their attention. As they watch the current leadership, many young professionals have commented that they do not have a feeling of confidence or trust in many of the leaders.
This observation has made me wonder: have these young professionals been receiving any instruction or guidance on Business Ethics? Who is providing such information? Where can they receive such knowledge? If they didn’t receive this in college classes, are companies providing any information or guidelines on this matter?
One trait that had always been valued for a person as well as for an organization is “high integrity”. In other words if a person/business owner is one with high integrity, then you would expect him/her to have a company of high integrity and strong business ethics. This should convey that the business provides quality products and services.
Those business owners with such a good reputation would consequently be expected to hire employees of the same moral fiber. With this organization, no one would expect anyone of stealing or lying about products or services, etc. Such a company would do all it could to be their best for the good of the whole organization. Sounds ideal, right?
However, in reality, since most humans are fallible, there would always be some people to stretch the truth or swipe small items that they felt wouldn’t be noticed, etc. Therefore, the challenge is for the business leaders to hold all people accountable for wrong doings. Most of us have a conscience that “speaks to us” when we are tempted or do something wrong. That conscience helps to keep us honest and of high integrity.
Unfortunately, there are MANY temptations everywhere, which catch some people at weak moments, and the conscience isn’t strong enough to refuse the temptation. This is why we have rules and laws to keep honest people honest.
Still, the business decision maker and sometimes a regular employee may find themselves having to “call down the wrong doer and/or decide how discipline this person”. If the wrong doer is your superior, how do you handle that? Would you still believe it is correct to discipline that executive? Would you fear retribution? Would that fear cause you to back off? Is “wrong” always “wrong”? Should executives be given special treatment? Do they deserve to be an “exception to the rule”?
If you are a person of high integrity, that integrity could be tested when you are in the position of “power”. Power can be a temptation itself. At what point would you “draw a line in the sand” and stand your ground?