Why Do Good People Do Dumb Ass Things? 6

Ethics 2Lance Armstrong, Canadian Senator Mike Duffy and the City of Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford – you can replace those names with any number of people  but, the question remains the same. What where they thinking? Why do good people do dumb ass things? Do they do it because they can? Is it because they think no one is watching or do they do it out of a sense of entitlement? They’ve worked incredibly hard, sacrificed much and worked long hours to further their career – and then in one dumb ass move they’ve thrown it all away. Any credibility they had  is gone – wiped out in a heart beat. Some will get back into the public’s good graces but most won’t.

It is better to be defeated on principle then to win on lies.  – Arthur Caldwell 

The first course I ever taught at Algonquin College’s School of Business was a “Business Ethics” course written by one of my personal hero’s, the late Professor Ron Knowles. He wrote it for first year business students in the College’s Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) program. One of the neat things about the course was that I got to work with first year business students to help them write their own personal code of conduct, their own ethical decision-making model that they could use when faced with an ethical dilemma. (A situation where there is no clear right or wrong answer) When you are confronted with an ethical dilemma what series of questions do you ask yourself to help you make a decision that you can live with?

Before the issue of integrity can even be raised we need principles of behavior – moral convictions about what is and is not appropriate.  – Dr. Nathaniel Branden 

Ethics is best described as a set of moral principles or values that defines what is considered right and wrong behavior for a person or group. Some people suggest that there is a difference between business and personal ethics. But, to my way of thinking there is just one. You are either ethical or you’re not. How can you behave one way at work and then behave a different way at home and still be true to yourself and what you believe in? The truth of the matter is – if you have to ask whether it is ethical or not – you already know the answer.

A moral compass – your personal code of conduct.  

What do you hold to be true? What are your enduring principles? What are you not willing to compromise – no matter the situation or the outcome? What isn’t for sale – no matter the price? If you had to sit down and write your personal code of conduct, what kinds of things would you include on that list? Ethics is a process. It is a continuous effort of studying our own beliefs and conduct and striving to ensure that we, and the institutions we help to shape, live up to standards that are solidly based. What series of questions will you ask yourself to solve your ethical dilemmas? Do you believe – I mean really believe in honesty, integrity and treating others fairly?  Is it OK to win at all costs? Does the end result justify the means? I wonder knowing what they know now would Lance, Mike or Rob act any differently? Unfortunately they may not get a second chance.

Copyright (c) 2013. Brian Smith-PLD. Not to be reproduced or copied without permission. Brian is available for speaking engagements, seminars and workshops. Find out what Brian can do for you and your organization by visiting http://briansmithpld.com

6 comments

  1. Great post, Brian!
    My personal code isn’t long.
    The truth always hurts someone, don’t let it be you.
    Loyalty is a TWO-WAY street.
    I am careful about giving my word, because I will back it with my money, my reputation, and if necessary, my life. Yes, I meant that. I learned a lot about duty,honor, and country during the 16 years I served in the Army.

  2. Thanks Paul. I appreciate you taking the time to read my latest posting and for your comments. God bless you for answering the call. Duty, honor and country outta mean something other then a catchy sound bite. Wish you the best – Cheers

  3. Q How do you know you have made the right ethical decision?A Some companies provide employees with ‘ethical tests’ to help them to make decisions. These might involve a series of questions to ask yourself, such as: is it legal? Is it consistent with the company’s code of business ethics? What would my mother think? How would I feel about it being on the front page of tomorrow’s newspapers? IBE’s 2003 publication Developing a Code of Business Ethics contains examples of corporate ethical tests.

  4. Unfortunately, practicing this philosophy might be easier in your personal life than in the business world. Ethical challenges arise in business because business organizations, especially large ones, have multiple stakeholders and because stakeholders make conflicting demands. Making decisions that affect multiple stakeholders isn’t easy even for seasoned managers; and for new entrants to the business world, the task can be extremely daunting. Many managers need years of experience in an organization before they feel comfortable making decisions that affect various stakeholders. You can, however, get a head start in learning how to make ethical decisions by looking at two types of challenges that you’ll encounter in the business world: ethical dilemmas and ethical decisions.

  5. Good stuff Lamont. Enjoyed your comments. I think you’re either ethical in your personal and professional life or your not. If you are working for an organization that wants you to perform by a different set of “rules” that run counter to what you believe – then you need to change careers and work with an organization who’s values are in line with your own. Thank you for posting your comments and for taking the time to read my post. – Cheers.

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