I can remember as far back as high school taking courses in business ethics. I often wonder if they still teach these types of courses today.

I can remember as far back as high school taking courses in business ethics. I often wonder if they still teach these types of courses today. And I wonder more if today’s CEOs ever enrolled in one. No need to mention those CEOs’ names as they have been splattered all over the news. They are the CEOs that get paid salaries, probably thousands of times greater than either what you or I will ever be paid.  

On the other hand, you could possible argue that these CEOs take greater risks, contribute more to the bottom line of any company, increase the national economy, and should be rewarded accordingly.  Should they?  Is there a ceiling on wealth? Or is it an unfair abuse of power?  I believe in paying a good salary for a job well done. I guess it’s all the extraordinary benefits that go along with this pay check that I have trouble swallowing.

The good, bad, and ugly

It comes back to that question:  What is ethical?  If you search online, you will find volumes of information defining ethical.  But in my opinion ethics is a form of philosophy that addresses morality, which includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. Good can be viewed as whatever produces the best end results upon people’s lives and well being. The bad, as you can assume, is the direct opposite of good and describes a situation in economics that is harmful and detrimental to the quality of life. The ugly is the state of mind of a person who is unethical and uses “bad” to further personal gains. These concepts, noble and ignoble, right and wrong, justice, and virtue, shape business leaders.  It’s simply what your mother taught you or what you should have learned in kindergarten.  Your religious beliefs will also come into play in making ethical decisions.

Take a step back and review your ethical decisions today. Where did your clothing come from? A sweatshop in a foreign country employing child labor? The food you eat?  Local or imported? The camera you recently purchased, who made biggest profit on your purchase? Did you receive too much change from the store or bank and didn’t return it? Get the message?

The following are some simple steps to get you through the ethics web and make you morally effective individual both in business and personally.

Ethical issues

Being ethical doesn’t always mean following the law. And ethics and religion do not always agree especially as civilization delves more and more into the scientific world with test-tube babies, abortion, and other bio-technology. It’s not always an easy decision and sometimes you need to follow your heart and instincts. Use your knowledge and personal experience to make judgments.

Just the facts

Gather and sift the facts. Weed out and cull non-fact items. Consult with people who will be affected by your decision and speak with experts in the field.  

Alternative actions

There are many ethical approaches to any problem. But there are several actions that would apply most situations.

Just ask yourself these questions. Which action results in the most good and the least harm? Which action respects the rights of everyone involved? Which action treats people fairly? Which action contributes most to the quality of life of the people affected? Which action symbolizes the character strengths you value?  

Test your decision

Would your mother be proud of your decision? Is it good for the children? If not, it might be time to rethink it, before implementing it.  

Allow rethink time

Before implementing your decision, you might want to allow rethink time. I always say a decision needs time to gel in your mind. Subconsciously, it needs time to root and grow. Set a date to look at it again. Review the facts and be flexible to change it. Then implement the decision.  

“A man does what he must.. in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures.. and that is the basis of all human morality.”-John F. Kennedy 35th President of the United States of America.