Monday, May 3, 2010

Business Ethics - Do They Really Exist Anymore?

Remember when a person’s word meant something? When you could get together with another person, or several people for that matter, you would hash something out, and when you were finished, and everyone had agreed, everyone would stand up and while you were busy getting all puffed up about what you had accomplished, everyone would circulate and shake hands.

That meant something, or at least it used to. You used to be able to leave a meeting like that and feel confident that everyone in that room at the time had made a commitment to something. Not kind of, sort of, depending on how I feel later, or, gee, I wasn’t really paying attention when everyone agreed. It didn’t matter, you had “shaken hands on it” and thereby created a verbal contract. Remember that?

I won’t be offended if you reflected on your own situation and said to yourself, “no, I don’t remember that”, “everything in my world is by contract, etc.”, and it doesn’t mean anything until I get it in writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I got things in writing as well, but when I did, I was simply making sure that everything that had been agreed to was now in that document, especially depending on how much detail there was within the agreement. But nonetheless, I was confident that if there was a discrepancy, I could simply pick up the phone, point it out, and if need be, reiterate what we had agreed upon, and all would be rectified.

You’re probably also wondering why I am going on at length about this point?

The simple fact is that I have come to wonder where business ethics has gone, no actually let me correct that statement, because frankly I don’t believe that there are personal ethics and business ethics, there are just ethics. You are ethical, or you are not, business, personal, regardless, you are, or you are not. It’s as simple as that, or at least it is to me. I recognize that there are different applications that define the difference, but I’m not trying to open up a dialogue on definitions here, I’m just talking about ethics, in general, so if you’re a purist, take a breath and cut me some slack, please.

Recently, I found myself on the receiving end of a conversation that ended something like this; “well, I may have said that, but you don’t have it in writing.” And he was right; I didn’t have it in writing. I had though, made commitments to others based on a conversation that we had had, which as you may have guessed by now, ended with a hearty hand shake and a promise to confirm the details in writing, which I reminded the person that I was dealing with, to which they reminded me that I didn’t have it in writing.

I could see that this was going to go no where, and so I ended the conversation and decided to leave it at that. Somewhat unfortunate for me was the fact that I had made commitments to others based on the earlier deal, and as I am a person committed to my ethics, I am living by my commitments, even though it means that I will be out of pocket as a result, but, at the end of the day, all we have is our word, it represents who we are and that should mean something.

Are you your word? (Even when it isn’t convenient) . . .

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