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Principles for Positive Business Ethics
This morning, I read about a company using on-line auctions to defraud customers. Last week, I consulted on an ethics complaint where a business coach betrayed a client’s confidentiality. And, recently a Physician was convicted of insider trading based on information from a patient, a violation of both business ethics and her professional ethics.
Business ethics are the key to profits. If clients and customers don’t trust you, and your business ethics, they will not do business with you. Would you buy from a company you didn’t trust? Of course not!
have become a hot-button topic. There
are often ethical conflicts between making money, and doing what is right. There can be dilemmas about doing
what is best for your employer, what’s best for your own career, and what’s best for the customer. Business ethics is about negotiating these mine-fields. Here are my Top 10 Principles for
Positive Business Ethics:
1. Business Ethics are built on Personal Ethics. There is no real separation between doing what is right in business, and playing fair, telling the truth and being ethical in your personal life.
Business Ethics are based on Fairness. Would a dis-interested observer
agree that both sides are being treated fairly? Are both sides negotiating in good
faith? Does each transaction
take place on a “level playing field”? If so, the basic principles of ethics are being met.
3. Business Ethics require Integrity. Integrity refers to whole-ness,
reliability and consistency. Ethical
businesses treat people with respect, honesty and integrity. They back up their promises, and
they keep their commitments.
4. Business Ethics require
Truth-telling. The days
when a business could sell a defective product and hide behind the “buyer
beware” defense are long gone. You
can sell products or services that have limitations, defects or are
out-dated, but not as first-class, new merchandise. Truth in advertising is not only
the law, business ethics require it.
5. Business Ethics require
Dependability. If your
company is new, unstable, about to be sold, or going out of business,
ethics requires that you let clients and customers know this. Ethical businesses can be relied
upon to be available to solve problems, answer questions and provide
6. Business Ethics require a Business
Plan. A company’s ethics
are built on its image of itself and its vision of the future and
its role in the community. Business
ethics do not happen in a vacuum. The
clearer the company’s plan for growth, stability, profits and service,
the stronger its commitment to ethical business practices.
7. Business Ethics apply Internally
and Externally. Ethical
businesses treat both customers and employees with respect and fairness. Ethics is about respect in the
conference room, negotiating in good faith, keeping promises and meeting
obligations to staff, employers, vendors and customers. The scope is universal.
8. Business Ethics require a Profit. Ethical businesses are well-run,
well-managed, have effective internal controls, and clear expectations of
growth. Ethics is about how we
live in the present to prepare for the future, and a business without
profits (or a plan to create them) is not meeting its ethical obligations
to prepare for the future
well-being of the company, its employees and customers.
9. Business Ethics are values-based. The law, and professional
organizations, must produce written standards that are inflexible and
universal. While they may
talk about “ethics”, these documents are usually prescriptive and refer
to minimal standards. Ethics are about values, ideals and aspirations. Ethical businesses may not
always live up to their ideals, but they are clear about their intent.
10. Business Ethics come from the Boss. Leadership sets the tone, in every
area of a business. Ethics are
either central to the way a company functions, or they are not. The executives and managers either
lead the way, or they communicate that cutting corners, deception and
dis-respect are acceptable. Line
staff will always rise, or sink, to the level of performance they see
modeled above them. Business
ethics starts at the top.
Ethics is about the quality of our lives, the quality of our service, and ultimately, about the bottom line. An unhappy customer complains to an average of 16 people. Treating employees, customers, vendors and the public in an ethical, fair and open way is not only the right thing, in the long run, it’s the only way to stay in business.
Phil, Mary, and the Staff at
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© Copyright 2003 by Philip E. Humbert. All Rights Reserved. This article may be copied and used in your own newsletter or on your website as long as you include the following information: "Written by Dr. Philip E. Humbert, writer, speaker and success coach. Dr. Humbert has over 300 free articles, tools and resources for your success, including a great newsletter! It's all on his website at: http://www.philiphumbert.com "