In their simplest form, ethics are the moral standards you rely on when you make a decision. They define what’s right and wrong, and outline the kind of behavior that businesses should not engage in. For responsible decision making in a business environment, a good set of ethics is key. If you’re new to management, try this course on decision making and equip yourself for success. Building on this when you maintain a high set of ethics as you conduct your business it provides benefits to everyone. Ethics are not only a guide to making decisions, but also the criteria the public judge you on. In business, this is critical, because how people see you and your company is the basis of building trust. If you’re taking unethical actions, you lose credibility, and your business will suffer.
Personally, your ethics form as you are influenced by the people and the environment around you. There are ethical views that apply to people all around the world, while others are more personal, and apply only to you. Over time, your ethical views can change over time as you’re exposed to different situations and environments. In a business, ethics has very positive benefits, and you can learn more about them in this course. The reasons for having high ethical standards include:
- A higher moral within your employees and the organization
- It helps to attract new customers
- It builds higher customer loyalty
- It reduces the risk of negative press or backlash caused by doing “the wrong” things
- It helps to make a positive impact on the community
If you want to run a sustainable business having a high set of ethics is critical, and there can be serious consequences if poor ethical decisions are made. Regardless of whether you believe good business ethics contribute to profits or not, poor ethics will have a major impact on your bottom line. Without standards you have misinformed, misguided and bad decisions being made, which can cause financial loss or injury to other people, or the business. Many legal cases are raised because of people seeking compensation for their losses as a result of business people making unethical decisions.
You need to get every member of your organization committed to a set of high ethical standards. As a manager or the business owner, you need to clearly define and communicate to your employees the consequences of being unethical, and the set of standards you want them to adhere to. You can study what it takes to create an ethical organization in this course. Huge organizations like Enron have been destroyed by unethical decisions, and others seriously damaged like Fannie Mae. Without a set of ethical standards combining ambition and the intelligence of senior executives is a recipe for disaster. Competitiveness, innovation and ambition are critical for a business to succeed, but they need to be kept in check with a strong moral compass, and business done in the right way.
Here are 12 principles that form the basis of business ethics, and are what you need to hold yourself accountable to:
You need to be honest in all of your actions, and every communication you make. When people see you making honest decisions, they start to trust your company because you’re not only being truthful, you’re being upfront and candid. People appreciate the fact they can take you at your word, as customers only ever do business with those they trust. Being an ethical executive means you do not deceive others by misrepresenting the facts, overstating and exaggerating or only giving partial truths. If you’ve inadvertently given the wrong impression, provide the relevant information to your customers and correct their misunderstanding as soon as possible.
Being ethical in business means maintaining a high level of personal integrity. This is how you earn the trust of others, whether they are your customers, team or your superiors. In this definition integrity means having a consistent character that is demonstrated by an alignment of your thoughts, words and action. Sometimes it requires you to have moral courage to do the right thing, and it takes inner strength to live up to mistakes and admit when a fault has been made. Despite a great pressure to do otherwise, ethical business managers live by a moral code they believe in, principles to maintain and they fight for their beliefs – without sacrificing their honor for the sake of just getting a job done.
Keeping Your Promises
Your word is one of the most important tools in your arsenal as a business manager. Keep every promise that you make, and always fulfill a commitment. The trust you build as an ethical executive means people like doing business with you, as you take every reasonable effort to fulfill not only the letter, but the spirit of the promises and commitments you have made. You can learn more about building trust in a business in this course. Don’t every twist your words to rationalize or get out of contracts, or justify why it’s okay to not comply to a commitment. Just do what you said you were going to do.
You need to be loyal to both your company, your team and yourself, while operating within a strong moral compass. If you demonstrate your loyalty it builds trust, and shows that you place a high value on advancing the interests of both the company and your colleagues. You should not ever place loyalty above your other principles, or use it as an excuse for unethical behavior. Demonstrate your loyalty but always make an independent judgment, and never use information that you have gained in confidence for your own personal advancement. Steer clear of conflicts of interest, and if you ever decide to leave your company do it on the best of terms. Give reasonable notice, respect any information that was gained in your former employer, and never engage in activities that take advantage of a previous position that was held.
In all of your actions, you must strive to be fair and just. An ethical executive is committed to fairness in all that they do, and do not seek to exercise their power for an unfair advantage or use indecent methods to gain a competitive edge. They also never take undue advantage of another person’s difficulties and mistakes. Being an ethical executive means that you are committed to being fair, employ justice in your decisions and treat all people equally, with tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Being fair also means being open minded, admitting when they have made a mistake, and adjusting their beliefs and positions when it is appropriate.
This involves having a genuine concern for others, as well as a sense of compassion. An ethical business manager is caring, benevolent and kind to both customers and staff, and seeks to reach their goals while causing the least amount of harm and the greatest amount of good. Being caring means understanding that there will be an impact on every stakeholder following a decision, and they always consider the financial, emotional and long term business consequences of an action. They don’t simply discount the needs of others.
Being ethical means treating everyone with respect, demonstrating this by being courteous and having an equal treatment of people regardless of who they are. Respect is given because everyone deserves dignity, privacy and rights, and they adhere to the rule that you must strive to treat others the way you would like to be treated.
Obeying the law
An ethical executive always obeys the law, and never breaks the rules, regulations or laws surrounding their business activities.
Being ethical in business is also about pursuing excellence in everything that you do. Delivering the highest quality of service or products makes business sense, especially if there is a constant endeavor to always improve.
Being a Leader
You need to demonstrate the principles and ethics you want your team to live by, and take an active role as a leader to be a positive role model. The best way you can enforce an ethical mentality is to lead by example, and creating an environment within your business that values decisions made on principles and standards of ethics. You can learn more about the ways you can approach being a leader in this recent post.
Ethical business managers enhance the good reputation of a company, which at the same time boosts the morale if its employees. The company reputation is very important, as well as the pride and morale of their employees. As an ethical business manager you need to avoid taking actions that undermine this respect, and they take action to correct any inappropriate behavior of others.
Being ethical means holding yourself accountable, and acknowledging and accepting personal accountability for their decisions, and any consequences. Not just personally, but an ethical manager will stand up and take accountability in front of their colleagues, their company, and the community.
Holding yourself and your business to these standards will ensure you’re not only covered against any wrongdoings, (if you follow these principles you can’t do anything wrong), but you’ll impress customers and staff alike, and build a strong sense of trust with all of your stakeholders. This is the foundation that takes your company to the success that it deserves to reach!