Ethics Is Relative to the Place, Time and Circumstance
- How long can you go on without taking a shower, one week, one month? The correct answer will be clear from this anecdote. A friend of ours was posted in manang during winter. In Kathmandu he bathed weekly but there he realised he had not bathed for three months. Did he not feel uncomfortable?
- According to him, he did not feel uncomfortable at all because others around him had not showered in six months. Therefore, in that setting he felt cleaner!
- So if hygiene is a relative concept, what is your take on ethical standards? The CFO said,” last year, I was awarded and lauded for the same things but the following year it landed me in jail.”
So what really is ethical practice?
- A government staff refusing to pass a file that had no problems, without something under the table.
- A government staff passing a file that should never have been passed, with something under the table.
- These are common. But below is a new one:
- Goodyear tyres was fined some million dollars for bribing people in Africa for influencing them to buy their tyres.
- Every sales can be broken down into four components-the user, the decision maker, the gatekeeper and the influencer. It is ethical to give something to the influencer to speak in favour of your product to the decision maker? It is ethical for the gatekeeper to badmouth a product because that vendor did not do anything for him?
- The line between ethical practice and unethical practice is a blur. Insider trading or the practice where someone inside the company tells a stock broker about a deal which will change the stock price significantly upon being made public, is regarded as unethical. However, gathering market intelligence is ethical.
- Ethics is no longer black and white. Suppose I am a banker, is it ethical to take tips if I open an account? But then it is ethical for a technician to take tips for installing an electronic meter at home.
- If someone leaves a company, is it ethical that he takes away office provided laptops with him? Also it is ethical that he pulls clients to his new company?
Components for Ethical Practice
- It should not be against the law of the land we are in.
- If what you did was told to the mass, you should not be afraid or ashamed.
- It should be something you are willing to teach your child to do with the promises that will make him successful and happy.
- So if we are doing anything we doubt may be unethical, we should put that practice under the above three litmus test.
- Ethics can no longer be ignored. Ethics is the foundation of growth. Similarly, lack of ethics is the seed of destruction.
- As managers we are often in dilemma. If a staff is unethical and we know it but he is a star performer, should we take action and even risk having to terminate him? Trunk call using office phone, doing household chores during office hours, taking home a pen or two, etc can be ignored.
- But using office’s petty cash or worst using the money from collection, if found out, should never be ignored.
- Ethics can never be an absolute term. It is relative to the place, time and circumstances.