We’ve heard the sayings. ‘Character counts,’ ‘manners matter,’ and ‘honesty is the best policy.’ But, what happens when they come into conflict with other phrases like ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business,’ or ‘do what you have to do to get it done?’
Doing a job and being successful can pose a lot of gray areas for people when carrying out ethical actions. And that’s why reflecting on what kind of professional you want and need to be is so important.
In writing about the qualities of great leaders, being ethical made the top of the list. We talked about using your morality meter to make the “right call” and using your best judgment.
And in realizing all of this advice can be a bit vague, we came across this Josephson Institute article about the 12 Ethical Principles for Business Executives. We thought it would be helpful to share with you what you can use for yourself and even your employees to help steer your business in the right direction ethically.
But first, what are Ethical Principles?
Ethical Principles are universal standards of right and wrong prescribing the kind of behavior an ethical company or person should and should not engage in. These principles provide a guide to making decisions but they also establish the criteria by which your decisions will be judged by others.
Out of the twelve described in the article, we thought we could point out five that would summarize just how important your actions are to you and your company as a small business owner or entrepreneur.
Let’s dive in…
Being honest with your employees will lead to more trust between you.
If you withhold information or even proper recognition for work well done, it can cause a rift between you, your employees, and any client or vendor. 65% of people who responded to create the How to Be a Good Boss Infographic said they received no recognition for work last year which led them to be disgruntled employees. Disgruntled employees can lead to hostility and adverse actions within the office environment.
Deliberately rippling the trust pool could cause negative repercussions in your daily work routine and make it more difficult to achieve success.
Under a tight deadline or other pressure, having the courage to be honest can be most of the battle. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous people and tempting tools out there that can cause your integrity to be tested.
For example, Facebook recently released a feature called Backdating Posts which allows you to post to your business’ Facebook page for a past date. If thought to be used improperly because of a missed deadline, your ethical judgment is compromised.
Maintaining vigorous integrity to withstand such temptation is the key to ensuring trust among those in your company.
As a business owner you have a lot of control and power. And as someone famous once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Within that responsibility is being fair to others about how you use your power, because they have put their trust in you to do what is ethically necessary for everyone’s success.
For instance, when establishing security measures for your business, whether that be in surveillance for the building or digital security for credit card numbers or emails – ask yourself if you are being fair to all those who will be impacted by the choices you have made. Are you being so relaxed that customers may not feel their information is safe? Are you being so intense that employees may feel they are constantly under investigation?
It may be best to ask how you would want to be treated in the situation you face to help you make the correct decision.
This principle comes with a caveat. Demonstrating loyalty to your organization and to people you work with should be taken only to the extent that it doesn’t compromise your capacity to follow the other ethical principles.
If you fire one employee to comply with the loyalty you have to another employee’s desire to move up within the organization, (perhaps they once did you a favor) is that still ethical? Probably not.
Remember your loyalty, but in fairness to the other promises you’ve made to be ethical.
5. Law Abiding
Finally, we hope it goes without saying that to be ethical is to follow the law. Some industries have particular rules or laws relating to their business activities and it is important to be within those written regulations.
Although we have written about common contracts to protect your own business from losing rights to your own important assets, it is essential to be familiar with those contracts to not infringe on other’s rights as well.
And if ever you’re in doubt of the relative shakiness of your legal ground, consult your moral compass…and maybe your lawyer.
For more about the 12 ethical principles visit the Josephson Institute website.
About the Author: Deanna Zaucha is the Content Marketing Coordinator for Webs and Pagemodo, and also manages our social media presence. She can be found on a dance floor, or on her iPhone keeping up with trends in marketing and tech. Get more from Deanna on the Webs Blog and Twitter.