Book Summary: There's No Such Thing as Business Ethics

The downfalls of giant corporations like Enron, Worldcom, the crisis in the church and even plagiarism by Professor Ambrose are all examples of ethics gone astray. The author of this book argues that one cannot have varied ethics for business, spirituality and their personal life. He also suggest that most educators, philosophers and the like have unnecessarily complicated the issue of ethics.

The consequences of these are many fold and include growing investor distrust in large businesses and the ethics of those who run the businesses.

The reason that people compromise their ethics, the author asserts is threefold:

1. Convenience: One often decides to do the easy thing than to do the right thing.

2. To win at any cost: Everyone wants to win and hates loosing. To win sometimes means breaking ethical laws.

3.Compromising on ethics can take place because of the situation and lying and cheating and even homicide can be justified for love.

"All is fair in love and war." is an age old adage.

Ethical standards are formed by individuals for different situations. Some compromise their own ethics but expect more ethical behavior from others.

There is good news on the horizon says the author. Businesses are becoming more concerned than ever about ethical behavior.

"Glamour and glitz are out. Transparency is in", says the author

Setting more reasonable ethics to have everyone on the same page is a practice that is gaining in popularity.

Behavioral interviews are thus growing in popularity.The problem is that some address ethical issues with :

Remedial issues: Common among these are corporate guidelines in dealing with ethical wrong doing. These are like tax rules and have several loop holes.

Ethical Flea drip: Dealing with those who commit ethical violations. The problem with this, the author says is that the 'fleas' come back.

Using the law: Relying on the law to determine ethical behavior. Corporations can do better than this, says the author.

Most of us expect others to be more ethical than others. For instance most college students believe that CEOs must be held accountable for the recent downfalls of many corporations. However, the majority of those students had cheated on a test.

On a similar note most working people surveyed had either indulged or had been passive observers to unethical behavior.

There is string evidence from looking at history that the true winners are the companies that use ethical behavior in conjunction with competence. In the long haul such efforts will pay off though they may seem expensive for the short term.

The state of ethics cannot be built by an organization as a whole.It must be done continuously by individuals at the expense of doing the right thing.

How does one know what is right? Where is the standard?

Ask yourself

  • When you think of ethics in general, do you feel positive or negative?

  • Would you discuss and apply ethical principles to your life?

  • Can an ethical person still win?

  • Do you have a single ethical standards for all parts of your life? at work and home?

  • Whom do you trust completely?

  • What are your ethical guidelines?
The Golden Rule:

  • Most people fall into five levels of ethical behavior: Always, mostly, somewhat, seldom, never. Where do you fit in? Most put themselves in the first or the second category.
  • Those who put themselves in the second category do so from the inconvenience of conflict,loosing,discipline.

  • Most people believe that being ethical is fine unless one is a victim of another person's follies.

There is one guideline to base all ethics, the golden rule

Ask "How would I like to be treated in this situation?" This can be your guideline for all decisions involving ethics. The religions of the world have prescribed this single rule. It cuts across all cultural boundaries. It is based on common sense.

There are two parts to the golden rule: the standard to follow and the will to follow it.

Ethics go beyond speculation and discussion. It involves action.

What should right treatment based on? Wealth? Talent? Political affiliation or beliefs? It becomes a game of "King of the Hill'.

Connecting with others is to find a common ground with others. The golden rule is easy to understand.

Norman cousins said that subjects though of as hard by students turned out to be easy decades later as compared to the softer subjects like ethics.

Sometimes, ethical choices are not obvious. Asking "How would I like to be treated in this situation?" is a way of identifying the stakeholders in a situation.

The golden rule creates a win-win situation - for investors, clients and employees.

It is a moral compass when one is lost.

A firm's CEO reports that following the golden rule leads to almost no EEC claims, retaining the best staff(lower turnover) and increased productivity.-Optimum and maximum growth at the highest level.

How do you evaluate those you interact with? Use the golden rule to evaluate your interactions. Identify benefits of using the golden rule in your company.

The golden rule begins with you. We must make it part of our everyday thinking.

Start with what you want and how you would like to be treated. Recognize the common characteristics among diverse people and find the golden rule. This include wanting to be valued.

The founders of Mission Control systems payed themselves nothing during a downturn and refused to let go of their best employees. If a parent or boss has mistreated you, you know how important it is to be valued.

We need to be appreciated. This builds you self-confidence and esteem. Appreciate the work of others and give them credit where it is due.

We want to be trusted. Trust is the foundation of all interpersonal dealings. Focus on shared goals and be open to new ideas. This may take a leap of faith, but it is worth it.

We want respect. Sort out differences privately. Keep secrets entrusted in you by others. Do not read unsigned letters. When indoubt, communicate your thoughts. It is good for business.

We want to be understood. Callousness and indifference can cause one to loose her job. Seek first to understand before trying to be understood.

We do not want others to take advantage of us. McKinsey's Bauer said that his company had to ensure that the value his company gave to his clients exceed the fees his client pays.

Character engenders trust. Adopt the golden rule as the guiding principle on your life. If you do not have convictions you are merely an echo.

How will the golden rule affect you goals. As Confusious said,

"Knowing what is right and not doing it is the worst cowardice."

"Decisions not conditions determine your ethics" says the author.

Public decisions involving others carry the pressure of conformity.

In action is also a decision.

When it comes to ethics, big decisions are easy to manage. Our dilemmas are usually in the smaller decisions. God is in the details, says the author.

Doing the right thing all the time builds you 'ethical predictability'.

If we want to grow, we must expose our actions to others. This is where our integrity comes into play.

Adopting the golden rule may not bring results right away. Gradually it will lead to a '24 Carat life'

Who in you life is in charge of holding you accountable?

Doing the right thing will bring you attention. This is not a reason to compromise your ethics

These are hindrances to the following the golden rule.

  • Pressure from expectations, Corporate cultures. Pressure creates tension which can cause impulsive decisions. We then start to look for shortcuts. Ask tough questions. Who are you accountable to?

  • Desire for Pleasure/Comfort: The 'if it feels good, do it.' mentality. Run from the temptation if necessary. Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Delay gratification.
  • The intoxication of Power: Those who thrive on power get a sense of entitlement. Power itself, like money is neutral but some tend to abuse it and make its preservation their primary concern. Realize this: A reputation is a shadow. The real substance of a person is character.
  • Pride: Having a sense of exaggerated self-worth can cause one to violate the golden rule. According to one great Christian leader, pride leads to other vices. Pride is competitive by its own nature. It can often delude you.
  • Priorities: The best companies are those that have the best core values. Wolfgang said that the things that matter most must not be at the mercy of those that matter least. In 50 years what will matter most among the things you do now?

It is not money itself that is at fault. It is the things that money brings with it that causes unethical behavior. Of the five factors that are hindrances to the golden rul, which of them is your Achilles heel?

How can you avoid this pitfall?

What are your priorities? Things and people in your life.

Seize your golden opportunity: You must first pursue a character by:
1. Taking responsibility for your actions. There are hangups (the ones who blame circumstances) , the bangups (those who blame the past) the gang ups(those who blame others). Churchill called responsibility the price of greatness.

2. Develop personal discipline. 82% of executives admitted to cheating in golf. This is a lack of discipline. Discipline yourself on time, energy, goals and moods.

3. Know your weaknesses. Keep things in perspective. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

4. Align your priorities with your values: Do not flip flop. Have integrity. As Lincoln said, that a house divided cannot stand.

5. Admit wronging and ask forgiveness quickly. Enron Tyco and Worldcom tried to cover-up.

6. Take extra care with Finances. Henry Ford said that money does not change individuals. It only unmasks them. Money is a only a tool but a sharp tool.

-Earn your money. You'll respect it more.

-Be scrupulously honest.

-be generous: We make a living with what we get. We make a life by what we give.

-Use credit wisely. Refrain from incurring debt. Live within your means.

7. Put your family above your work. This actually helps your career in the long run.

8. Place high value on people. Seizing opportunities means giving of yourself to others and to see value in others.

  • In your field, what kinds of opportunities does one look for?
  • What is a golden opportunity?
  • What kind of person has the characteristics of meeting this opportunity?

The Midas Touch

It is not what we take up but what we give up that makes us rich. There is riches in leading an ethical life. Take the focus off yourself and see how you can give value to others.

-Treat people better than they treat you. Take the high road, no matter how the other person treats you.

-Walk the second mile: Do not stick to doing the bare minimum. Go above and beyond it.

-Help those who cannot help you.

-Do right when it is natural to do wrong.

-Keep your promises even when they hurt.

Petty people lack perspective, priorities, passion and progress in their lives.

What goals have you set for yourself in life and in your career? How do you plan to reach them? You can go for the gold or the golden rule. External appearances may show payoffs for the former but it is only the latter that will have lasting success.

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