Building Equity in your Ethics Account by JoeElkins.Com ™

Great question Janet! How does one make sure that their Ethics Account has a healthy balance before they enter the work arena again? So many have commented on someone they have worked for that was anything but ethical. And then you have a growing percentage of people who are either without standards, or unstable in their values.

I once worked at a facility where a visit from corporate went very wrong. The President, a Vice President, Operations Manager, and someone from legal paid a visit to our location. Within minutes of stepping into the manager’s office they stated, “We’re going to do an investigation. And if we find what we think we’ll find, we are going to prosecute.” Within five minutes the resignation had been tendered.

Talk about upheaval. It took a long time before the people at that plant recovered. In fact a year or so later, corporate came in and conducted an investigation on the person that was promoted to the manager’s position. Another manager dismissed due to infractions of either law or policy.

Just this week, another person associated with Wal-Mart, has been dismissed due to policy infraction, usually an ethical issue. What makes it worse is that in this economy, the chances of a quick rebound are almost zero. Because of the termination, there will be no unemployment benefits. Unless they have very faithful friends or family, life will be a struggle for some time.

When Josh MacDowell wrote the book and lesson series Truth Matters, he coined a phrase that has stuck. The phrase is Situational Ethics. By this he explained that a person’s code of ethics changes according to either the situation or their perception of the situation. And I am sure we have all known someone who has played both sides of an ethics issue on the same day. We walk away shaking our head incredulous over the audacity and level of hypocrisy.

Dr.’s Cloud and Townsend coauthored the book Boundaries, and later Boundaries in Dating, and Boundaries in Marriage. Of course the purpose of these books is to help readers recognize the importance of having healthy boundaries. Boundaries simply put, is a place you won’t go, or a place you won’t let others take you. As counselors they share numerous examples of both unhealthy boundaries (or lack of), and the relational results after establishing boundaries.

There are many reasons people step away from what they know to be right or wrong. Tiger Woods confessed that his money and position convinced him that he could get away with cheating and infidelity, as well as convinced him that he was entitled to the privileges. “The word betrayal is just not strong enough,” said Elin Nordegren, Tigers former wife, told People magazine. Tiger’s breach of trust reportedly cost him in excess of $100 million.

So how does one prepare ethically for work? It can be difficult if you did not grow up with a foundation of right and wrong. More importantly, to have that sense of absolutes founded in faith. Josh MacDowell presents Biblical precepts as the foundational basis for ethical behavior. John Brown University offers a Masters degree in Ethical Leadership, but that does not guarantee that those who have studied the subject are committed to any standard.

The question for some is that of risk. What do I lose if I am caught? A parallel from industry is this, “why would anyone risk safety for a raise, for promotion, or promise”. If injured, there is no payment that will negate the pain or satisfy the suffering. Those injured and dismissed stand a chance of being hired again. For those dismissed for ethics violation, being hired again by anyone is near impossible.
Any company of size or significance would view that history, much like a bank considering a felons application. Not Likely.

For this reason, I encourage that the ethics begin with the first step of the process. The resume and application need to be truthful. A calculus professor once asked a question and let the class make numerous attempts to answer. He wrote “NFMUS” on the board and simply stated, “No Fair Making Up Stuff.” Your resume needs to be truthful. More and more, HR staffs are conducting investigations to determine the truth. If it is not true, you are not a candidate for their company for a very long time.
The best approach, if you believe your boundaries need bolstering up, is to write it out. Identify the potential violation even if you think it is just a white-lie. List along with the violation the worst possible results and consequences. Too often people minimize what they think is a gray zone. In business, a white-lie is a red flag indicating that what lies beneath is just as foul and rotten; untrustworthy. In contrast, list character and integrity, and list the benefits and rewards that accompany those values. And for the gray zones, either white wash or black was them as they would be by the courts and a jury. Do you ever want to explain this issue to a group of people who hold your future in their hands with a verdict?

But, above all, invest in a copy of the original bylaws, the Bible. Proverbs are lessons written by the wisest man to teach and protect his sons. God given law was the basis for that wisdom. Keep those rules and your ethics account will prove healthy. The beginning of any shadow, the color of gray, is the beginning of your protective wall starting to crumble. If hired, a part of your job is to protect the company from scandal. If you won’t protect yourself by being forthright, then why would any potential employer see you as one who would protect them? Regardless of religious affiliation, the fact remains that the majority of American law is derived from the Bible, the Ten Commandments, and some Levitical law.

Now the other side of this issue is the pre-determination to be the model of Character and Integrity. Key here is the word, Pre-Determined. Character and Integrity do not happen by chance. Virtues are those qualities that are always considered valuable to family, friends and employers. They do take on a deeper level of respect when one stands firm on their values when conditions are riskiest and your job or relationship face peril. Thirty years ago children’s cartoons illustrated these values in their animated stories. Today we have many that make virtues, character and integrity the focal point of comedy and ridicule.

Few people engage in an Accountability process. But this is a great tool for building credible values, boundaries, and realistic expectations. When issues become cloudy due to pressures from peers and powers of position, accountability partners can help cut through the smoke and mirrors to the heart of the issue. Sometimes they can cut to the heart of the issue because they are outside the pressures that cloud perspective.

In today’s economy, facing the possibility of a second dip, being dismissed due to Integrity issues can be a death sentence to a career. If you fail and lose your position, may it be that it is because you stood your ground on principle; that you refused to compromise your integrity, character or value for a momentary advantage or profit. When the dust settles and the issues lie about your feet, you can stand tall without the burden of shame. Those people maintain friends where others find themselves abandoned. May you be ever so strong and abundant in faith, family, and friends.

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