Whenever a news story is published about a company closing because of the actions of the management, everyone asks how anyone could violate ethical business behavior standards in such a blatant fashion. Other professionals research the details of the story and claim the same situation would never occur in their own business. No one would make such questionable decisions that would lead to corporate bankruptcy and legal charges for fraud. The truth is that every person has a different degree of tolerance for dishonesty, secrecy, and manipulation that creeps into daily business life.
Simple actions by people holding leadership positions will directly impact the ethical behavior practices within a business. Having the secretary screen calls when the manager is visibly available may not seem important, but even the simplest white lie communicates what is acceptable. Small decisions to bend the truth will develop into larger habits of justifying lies about finances, time and attendance, and hiring and firing decisions.
Any decision that must be kept secret for fear of the company’s reputation is bordering on unethical. While privacy protects patent, copyright, and market advantages, secrecy covers practices that bend the rules just enough to get by legal requirements. When the shortcomings of the organization are hidden and ignored because poor performance is tolerated, ethical business behavior is not being required of people in every position. Problems must be identified and addressed to reward the tough decisions that raise the ethical standard throughout the business.
When business becomes a game of winning and losing, manipulation has crept in to the life of the business and every person wonders what rules will be followed for the current week. By this point so many standards have been compromised, a full audit would be required to find all the places that ethical business behavior has been omitted. Managers who are manipulating report results and financial data have crossed over a line that is labeled, “the point of no return.” Truth has been swept aside and anything can happen after this point.
Anyone can fall into the slide that happens over time if not checked at the earliest point of hearing yourself tell the first white lie that is easier than admitting something might be wrong. Make a personal decision today to not take that first step away from the highest standards of ethical business behavior. Require excellence in your staff and spend time with people who will hold you accountable to the ethical business practices.