You can’t! As part of my MBA studies at the University of Indianapolis, I was required to take an ethics class. It seemed silly at the time. After all, business was about making money. As long as your company did that, you were good. Or so I thought.
Over time, I have come to realize that business is all about ethics, regardless of your position or role. A single lapse in ethics can be devastating, or even terminal, in the business world. Corporations such as BP, Exxon, JP Morgan/Chase, Homeside Lending, and Lehman Brothers struggled or closed due to what some my consider lapses in judgement. Individual careers have been wiped out. History is littered with ethic lapses in judgement. Richard Nixon and Bernie Madoff are the most devastating that come to mind.
With examples constantly in our face, why do we do it? Why don’t we do the right thing all the time? The politically correct thing to say right now is “It’s not my fault. Everybody is doing it.” I believe it is that inner tussle between helping ourselves and helping others that has been the burden of mankind since the days of Adam and Eve. For me, my inner tussles went away about 14 years ago. At a department meeting, I was faced with a question from a teammate of mine, Toney Jones. The question was simple: “Are there any plans for a Reduction In Force (RIF)?” I panicked! The question was out of left field. What do I answer that question? I knew a RIF was happening early next week. I took the easy way out and lied. I will never forget my reply: “Not that I know of.”
Wrong answer! I should I have said something like: “Toney, if I knew something like that, you know I wouldn’t be able to answer that question if I did know.” I, to this day, wonder if I ever earned back the trust of my teammates that I lost that day.
Businesses are made up of unique individuals. Ethics are all about doing the right thing by your teammates and your customers every day. Do the right thing.
Thanks for coming in today.