3/3/2005 - One of the most significant aspects of management in the next several years is the continuing strong emphasis on business ethics for both management and employees. One manifestation of this interest is the many requests for Business Ethics workshops which we receive. Business ethics involves the question of making all of our business decisions with honor and integrity. It means doing what is “right” because it is right, and only because it is right, regardless of the outcome. Business ethics involves questions of character which, as Aristotle commented, is how you act when no one is looking. Many employers develop a Code of Ethics by which employees and managers must abide, and publish it in their employee handbooks. Here is a checklist of important principles that will help you develop your ethics philosophy.

1. Safeguarding confidential information regarding customers, clients and/or members and using it only for business purposes.

2. Engaging in a “conflict of interest.” A conflict of interest is a situation where the interests of the employee conflict with those of the employer. For example, an employee who handles customer payments and who “borrows” a few dollars, intending to pay it back in several days. This is not only a conflict of interest, it is misappropriation of funds.

3.Receiving large or unusual gifts from a customer, vendor or member. This creates the perception of preferential treatment, regardless of whether the preferential treatment was actually given.

4. Actually providing preferential treatment in return for some special favor. For example, providing free or discounted services in return for football tickets.

5. Employees providing goods or services at a discount or “on the side.”

6. Working a second job that conflicts with the employee’s duties at the primary job, such as working for another similar employer or a competitive employer, either after hours, on the week-end or – worst of all – during regular working hours.

7. Taking advantage of a relationship with a customer or member, with respect to issues such as availability of keys, entering when the customer is not home, or engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a customer.

8. Engaging in activities away from the employer’s premises, after working hours, which bring discredit on the employer. This could include working at an unsavory establishment or getting arrested for possession of drugs or DWI.

9. Using employer property for private reasons. For example, using the Internet connection to look for a new job, using the copy machine to make copies of a resume, or using the email system or customer/member lists to advance private interests.

10. Not skimping on materials or customer/member service, in order to effect a savings in expenses or time. In other words, always providing top quality service, regardless of any other factors.

11. Always tell the truth. Oscar Wilde once wrote, “If one continues to tell the truth, one will, eventually, be found out.”

12. Treat all employees with equality, fairness, respect and dignity.

“Is it right because the gods love it? Or do the gods love because it is right?” -- Socrates, c. 425 B.C.

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