Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I recently read someplace that today's society tolerates too much questionable activity, whether it be by our kids, businesses or managers. I got to thinking about it and I'm not quite sure I agree. Do kids today really think that cheating or stealing is okay? Do businesses and managers really think it's okay to cheat and steal?

I think basic misbehavior is considered just as wrong today as it ever was. People are just coming up with more creative ways to try to get away with things (ahem-Madoff) and others are just stupid (ahem-AIG). Society doesn't accept these ways, but people are still going to try, and try hard they do.

Laws don't always require us to do the right thing. This is where ethics has to take over. Ethics are standards of conduct that we "ought" to follow. Good ethics in business is akin to good sportsmanship in athletics. We are to play by the rules, be fair, and be a good sportsman. The rulebook doesn't always tell us specifically what we can or can't do, but yet we know. Ethics guides us in those situations.

As a supervisor/manager, we have a responsibility to promote ethical behavior - and take action when unethical behavior is suspected. We have a duty to:
  • set a good example,
  • ensure others act according to laws, values, and policies,
  • make sure your staff have the resources to do the right thing,
  • enforce standards and policies,
  • report noncompliance,
  • never retaliate or permit retaliation against "whistle blowers".
You can pretty much sum this all up with the phrase, "do the right thing". If it doesn't seem right - it probably isn't.


Anonymous said...

If you ask most people, they would say that they want to do the "right thing."

It gets tricky because many times right or wrong is not as clear cut as we would like it to be. For example, what happens when you are at a meeting and someone takes credit for your manager?

Depending upon the culture of the organization and your position, you are put in an awkward position. Then you need to make a decision about what to do - after all you do need your job. Do you confront your manager? Do you tell your manager's manager?

As you mention, people are always trying to get away with something - the question is how can you stop it and if you can't stop it, when do you start looking for a new job?

Andy Uskavitch said...

Thanks for the comment annonymous. You raise a good point that non-ethical behavior doesn't always come from the lower ranks.

In this economy, job retention is at the forefront of most people's minds and approaching a manager or manager's manager can be difficult. However, I would have to at least talk to the manager taking the credit. It may very well be that this is something that no one has ever called him on and you're just the medium to stop it from continuing or growing. As author Larry Winget said, "Anyone who will lie about the little things will lie about the big things."