Ethics is in the Eye of the Beholder [poll results]

by Sharlyn Lauby on October 31, 2013

A couple weeks ago, I shared with you a reader note about an internal interview process. You can read the original note here. The reader wanted to know if the situation was ethical. Here’s what you said:

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While the “questionable” category got the most votes, the “unethical” choice wasn’t far behind. And I wouldn’t totally discount the “ethical” numbers. This one-question, unscientific survey speaks volumes about ethics. My takeaway? Ethics isn’t always clear. Far from it. Different people can interpret a situation differently.

That’s why companies must develop an ethical standard. Each of us calibrates our moral compass differently. Every company defines ethics differently. Let’s use conflict of interest as an example. Some organizations have very strict rules about gifts; others don’t. It’s important to define for employees what is considered to be ethical in their profession, industry and company.

Now some people might say, “Aren’t there some situations that are obviously unethical?” And yes, I agree. Some situations should be obvious. Then I think about the standards of conduct companies create that include activities like “don’t steal from the company or your coworkers” or “don’t sleep on company time” and say to myself – shouldn’t that be obvious? But sadly it’s not, so we have to write rules about it.

I’ll put this in the category of better safe than sorry. Define your ethical standard. So no one can question it.

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