Whatever Happened to Business Ethics?

By: Ken Keis


"Live one day at a time emphasizing ethics rather than rules."
Wayne Dwyer

Whatever Happened to Business Ethics?

Ethics: The discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation; a set of moral principles; a theory or system of moral values; the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group; a guiding philosophy; a consciousness of moral importance.

Corruption: Impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle; depravity, decay, decomposition; inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery); a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct.

Whatever Happened to Business Ethics?

After the Enron and WorldCom incidents, there seemed to be some progress in the business culture toward operating with some type of ethical guidelines but, after recent experiences, I wonder if we have made any progress.

What I find disturbing is that many individuals and organizations think it is completely okay to be unethical, if it gets them what they want. Even though I am a huge supporter of free markets and capitalism, there can be a dark side if the operation is void of ethics.

I agree with info-commercial guru Kevin Trudeau that the mandate of all publicly traded companies is to make money for the shareholders -- end of story. The result is a conspiracy theorist's dream come true where, at all costs, a profit must be made. Ethics are not part of the picture.

Here are examples that most of us have heard.

- HMOs withholding acceptance because their numbers are off this quarter
- Insurance companies intent on delaying or refusing payment so executives can get performance bonuses
- Information about the harmful effects of drugs withheld from the authorities
- Misleading advertising to induce sales
- Protection of reputations with cover-ups
- Used car dealers turning back the odometer
- Building contractors taking deposits and not completing their work

And on it goes!

What is most disconcerting is the group of individuals who actually don't see anything wrong with that type of conduct. In fact, in some university ethics classes, students did not see anything wrong with lying to get what they wanted.

But the point here is that it is not okay to compromise your ethics to get ahead.

Here's a quote that outlines my general sentiments.

"The truth is that good ethics sometimes is good business, but sometimes it's not. It depends on one's goals and how one defines good business. Sometimes, good ethics can end in bankruptcy. Of course, so can bad ethics.

A fairer statement is that good ethics can be a very powerful business asset and that good things tend to happen to companies and individuals that consistently do the right thing and bad things tend to happen to those that even occasionally do the wrong thing.

But the crucial point is that the moral obligation to live according to ethical principles is not dependent on whether it's advantageous. People of character do the right thing in the pursuit of virtue, not self-interest."
Michael Josephson
Author and Business Professor

So the question is:

Are you a person or business of character that is committed to doing the right thing?

I recall, from my automotive-consulting days, that a sales manager asked the sales rep to lie about previous history and damage to a used car they were selling. The sales rep did it to keep his job but he had sold his soul.

The reality is there are no excuses for unethical conduct.

Thankfully now some individuals are being held accountable for their actions. In addition, individuals who did not take part in the unethical conduct but had knowledge of such events or actions are also being held accountable for their sin of omission.

You are not immune from prosecution if you have knowledge of unethical conduct.

I agree with Michael Josephson. In the long term, ethical conduct is a very powerful and positive asset to you and your organization.

I know that most of us at some time or another have either pushed the ethical limits or at least thought about it.

The key is: Don't cross the line.

Be courageous and do the right thing.

Lives have been destroyed because of unethical and corrupt conduct. It is time we all took a stand.

Yes, each of us can make a difference and reap rewards from our good conduct.

Not that long ago, I was asked to be part of a mastermind group. Two of our primary objectives were:
- to set a good example; and
- to expect ethical conduct in the personal and professional development industry.

That's an example of how we can each do our part to make a difference.

Lawmakers now understand there has been little consequence or accountability for unethical behavior in business but recent jail terms for guilty executives provide new hope.

I have found that individuals who are clear and strong in their identity, values, purpose, and passion are far less likely to succumb to the peer pressure of unethical or corrupt conduct.

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Ken Keis, MBA, CPC, is an internationally known author, speaker, and consultant. He is President and CEO of CRG Consulting Resource Group International, Inc., Many professionals herald CRG as the Number One global resource center for Personal and Professional Development.

For information on CRG Resources, please visit crgleader.com

For information on Kenís Training and Speaking Programs, please visit kenkeis.com

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