The subject of ethics has been on my mind lately. Even before Frank Roche’s excellent post yesterday titled “Mean What You Say.”
Yeah, I know…given our current economic situation, ethics should be at the tops of everyone’s agenda. But I don’t want to talk about banks, mortgage companies, etc. That’s been beaten to death. Let’s take the conversation to an everyday level – because we don’t need to have situations of government bailout proportion to be faced with questions of ethics. It can be the manager who is taking personal gifts from vendors. Or the director who makes sure their friend or family member gets a contract. Or the vice president who fails to disclose a critical piece of information to ensure a decision turns out the way they want it to.
In putting my thoughts together, I stumbled across a good article by Thomas Friedman at The New York Times talking about the importance of focusing on “how” things happen. It’s just not enough to achieve an outcome…it’s important to understand how that result happened. For example, if an organization achieves its financial goals but they intentionally violate a contract in order to make it happen, well that’s a problem.
But, we all knew that…right? Now comes the tough part. If you knew something wasn’t right, what would you do about it?
When faced with adversity, it’s very difficult for some people to speak up. Human nature is for us to operate in a “herd mentality.” We go along with the group, even if we’re troubled with the decision, because we don’t want to be singled out as a naysayer or not a team player. It’s that silence which starts the slippery slope of unethical decision making. Because once we agree with the first unethical decision…then the next one is easier…the following one is even easier than that…and so forth. Before you know it, a person who was initially troubled by the situation has become part of the problem. It simply develops into tacit approval.
I wish there was an easy answer for this dilemma. It would be great to eradicate this world of unethical behavior. (Ahem, now let me take off my rose-colored glasses.) But, people need to get comfortable in their own skin. IMHO, if it means you tick off a few folks or lose a few friends because you stood up for an ethical solution, then so be it. As our parents always told us, our “real friends” would understand and (hopefully) support us.
So, while no one wants to be in this situation, if presented, do you have what it takes to confront unethical behavior?0