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Poor Ethics

A general and assumptive statement would be that everyone is trying to get along in business and earn a living, or are they?  

This week we'll have a look at ethics and how they apply to day-to-day business.

Some dictionaries confuse the reader with circular definitions, stating that ethics are morals, and morals are ethics - they are entirely different!  

Ethics are what you decide they are, they are your own personal set of guiding beliefs and principles by which you gauge and mange your conduct. Morals are a set of "enforced" rules by which others control your behavior the first formation of moral code was introduced in the bible for example "thou shalt not kill"...  

Taking the bible example and converting it to an ethic means that it could be re-written as "it is contra-survival to kill another, but an acceptable level of injury out of self-defense is OK".

I don't mean to belabor the point, but for the sake of clarity lets go over that again - ethics are not moral principles; criminals have morals but do not have ethics.

Without getting into deep philosophical debate of right and wrong, it's obvious that there'll be some things we do make us feel good about ourselves, and some things that would fill us with self loathing.

Have you ever heard anyone justify some dodgy business deal with "But its just business, nothing personal"?

Is it that some people have one set of standards for their personal life and another for business? Or is it that we're more exposed and accountable in our one to one dealings with people than we are in our business decisions?

Where do we draw the line between aggressive business tactics, and downright crooked activities?

I came across someone recently who had a well paid job in the construction industry. His employer had cornered a lucrative niche market and gave Mr X full trust and responsibility to run a local branch of his business and rewarded him with a good salary and bonus. But Mr X planned to one day branch out on his own. Fair enough, it happens.  Maybe that doesn't cross the line into dishonesty.

However, was it OK that he wanted to copy the business model exactly?

Was it acceptable to use the same suppliers?

And Mr X had built up good working relationships with the main customers so he may as well take those too right?

Plus he was quite matey with one of the office staff so they would join him when he eventually started up. Of course it took several months of lining up his ducks (during work time) before he handed in his resignation and launched his new business in competition with his old boss.

At what point in the above slippery slope would YOU start to raise your eyebrow about the integrity of Mr X?  For me it's about the point where I think "How would I feel if someone pulled that one on me?"

You don't have to get all religious to adopt a mantra along the lines of "Do unto others as you'd want others do to you". That works for me in general life so I see no reason not to apply it to my business dealings.

It's a true story, and I'm sure not a unique one. I've had experience as the employer in such a scenario and maybe it could happen again. But I know I'll never be a Mr X.

This story had an interesting twist in that Mr X and I had a mutual friend who actively encouraged him to hatch his dodgy plan, and even invested money into Mr X's new venture. Hence I now have a vacancy on my friend list!

In an earlier post I talked about conditions of exchange, well that was not just relating to how you interact with your clients, it also relates to how you interact with anybody - your employer, employees, wife, husband or children.  It applies to everything you do whether its a friendly shoulder to cry on or a good tip for the Melbourne Cup!

Let's raise the game and keep prospering!


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