I learnt that the golden rule for doing the right thing is: "Do unto others as you want others to do unto you"
It seems it applies to all situations. If an employee has a question about whether he is doing the right thing, he can put himself in the shoes of the employer and see how he would feel if his employee does the same thing. From the article and the comments, I feel inspired to apply this in my life. Thanks.
Let me give you a specific example of ethics and corporations. During one of our nauseating ethics training sessions, in attendance was a manager who made it a habit to underestimate the time it took to complete tasks, forcing engineers to work overtime and/or during weekends. He did this quite openly and deliberately, over years, in order to "get our foot in the door."
To me, that is very obviously unethical behavior.
I brought that up during one of the sessions, as a hypothetical example of unethical behavior by managers. Perhaps seeing that maybe someone was referring to something he did, his response was "I mean ethics in the sense defined by the company guidelines."
So, in short, people need to trust their "inner voice," as someone mentioned, and then the company needs to crack down on those whose "inner voice" is too hoarse to make itself heard? Formulaic guidelines simply do not cover all cases.
I agree that many company’s ethical codes need to be updated. Companies are organic; they must be willing to change course when the path they are headed down is no longer a viable option. However, one consequence of a company having an established ethical code is that the employees may not question if behavior not specifically mentioned in the code is considered ethical or not. There may be a danger that “members of an organization may come to believe that the code represents ‘all there is’ to being ethical. As long as what they do or say is not specifically prohibited by the code, they may feel that they never need to raise additional ethical issues or consider additional ethical standards” (Johannesen, et al. 2008).
I think a good question to ask is at what point does the company’s ethical responsibility end and the individual person’s responsibility kick in? While a corporate ethical code (such as the IEEE Code of Ethics) is essential to have in place so that employees know what is expected of them, there are always going to be different interpretations to the guidelines due to the fact that people have different backgrounds and opinions that helped shape their ideas of what constitutes ethical behavior.
Thank you for your post,
Graduate Student | Drury University
Johannesen, R. L., Valde, K. S., & Whedbee, K. E. (2009). Ethics in human communication. (6th ed.). Waveland Pr Inc.
All of us at one time or another have been unethical, either in relation to our family, our community, our employer or employees, or other people outside of these categories. The degree of unethical behavior will be different for each of us, but it is there.... and you know what it was (or still is) better than anyone else.
What ultimately is the governor on behavior is whether you can live with being unethical, and continue to do it, or whether you can accept that you did unethical things and try diligently not to do any more of them again.
Whether driven from outside teaching such as the Bible, or corporate ethics classes, etc. or from that "inner voice" that tells us all "this ain't right", ethical behavior derives from one's value system becoming the inner voice, and it will be the inner voice that always wins.
Cultivate the inner voice carefully.
Jesus Christ gave a standard that would cut through a lot of ambiguity: "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise." (Luke 6:31)
Would I want my life terminated because of my handicap? Would I want to be passed over for a promotion because my boss was sleeping with one of my co-workers? Would I want the company in the field behind my house treating the environment the way my company is treating it? Would I want my trade secrets leaked to my competitors?
Good article, Richard.
The problem is that "the right thing" can be very different from one person to another.
Compound that by introducing differences in beliefs due to religious or cultural issues, it becomes even more difficult to differentiate right from wrong.
Unfortunately, you almost have to have a set of guidelines that focus everyone towards the "corporate" definition of what is considered to be ethical and unethical in a company, especially in this new "global workforce".
Otherwise it's left to each person to make that judgement based upon the factors mentioned above (and many others).
I have to agree that ethics comes from the inside of a person, not from some phoney manufactured list someone else writes.
Maybe it's like porn. Hard to define, but I have no problem recognizing it when I see it.
There's nothing more frustrating than to have to sit through canned "ethics training" sessions at work, to be given platitudes by senior execs who often turn out to be the very worst offenders. Never mind, CEOs who make totally obscene annual incomes, which in itself make any sanctimonious rhetoric they might have to impart, concerning ethics, suspicious at best.
Ethics means you do the right thing, even if the right thing works against you monetarily or in any other way. Do what's right.
All the ethics rule a corporation can come up with will not change what is in the employees head. Rules can only influence (or enforce...) employees behavior.
Ethics is an "inside out" thing, not "outside in". Employees with a strong ethic will make a company's ethics strong, not the other way around.
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