Ethical Behavior- It’s Everyone’s Responsibility
By Cynthia Bazin
In each of our lives, we are going to be tested at one point or another on our ethics and moral behavior. Can you remember a time in your life when you were asked to do something, by an employer, or friend, which was outside of the lines of ethical behavior? Or have you ever felt the pressure to perform at work, or to get ahead in an organization? What decision did you make? Did you do the right thing by sticking by the rules, or did you go against ethical guidelines?
With the recent Barry Bonds controversy over his home run record in baseball; whether there should be a blemish on Barry’s record due to his alleged steroid use, it made me think about where the responsibility lies with ethical behavior.
In my opinion, the following is what we need to look at when we consider who is responsible for ethical behavior. (This can be applied to the Barry Bond’s controversy) or any situation in general where ethics are critical.
The Individual Themselves: Ultimately, we are responsible for our own behavior and decisions. We need to decide (preferably early in life), what type of person we are going to be. Are we going to do the right things in life, regardless of outside pressures, or are we going to allow people to persuade us, perhaps pressure us into making decisions that we are not comfortable with. Upon me interviewing people that I have investigated that were ultimately discharged from employment and/or convicted of a crime, many expressed that their unethical behavior started small, then as time progressed, unethical decisions became somewhat normal, and small violations led to bigger violations.
Supervisors/Management: Are you a manager or supervisor for an organization? What are your ethics? Do you follow the rules and regulations or do you go against the rules? Have you ever noticed that an employee’s behavior has changed in the workplace or is not following the rules of the organization, or the law? Did you immediately investigate or did you let things go, because “it’s not that serious”, or “he or she is a good employee” and you didn’t want to make a big deal of it? Although the individual is ultimately responsible for their behavior, as managers and supervisors you have a responsibility to look within yourselves, to not only determine if you are doing the right thing with your own life, but how you are as managers, are you enforcing and encouraging good behavior?
The Organization: I am certain that everyone has heard the phrase “Everything starts from the top down”. What is the overall pulse of the organization that you work for? What are the ethics of the CEO, CFO, COO and other top ranking officials of the organization? Do they represent good, ethical, legal behavior? What types of policies and procedures are written for the organization and do they follow-through with holding up these policies and procedures? If people violate these ethical violations, is swift, strict discipline and/or penalties taken or is it brushed off? The organization as a whole, must set the pulse of what is expected by the people who run it and work within it. If the top ranking officials aren’t following the guidelines, how can you expect and/or demand that the people that work for you be ethical?
How is it best for us as a society to get people to want to do the right thing? We must set a good example at home. We must start with the kids; we must set a good example with our younger generation to do the right thing, because it feels right to ourselves, and that you should never feel pressured to do something that is against the rules. We must teach people that doing the right thing gets you rewarded and moves you forward in life. We also must put good, ethical people in high ranking positions. These people must hire people that think similarly to what they do and enforce policies and procedures to ensure that people are doing the right thing.
Remember, that regardless of your behavior today, or how you have done things in the past, tomorrow is a new day; a new beginning which we can all make a conscious decision to make the right decisions in life, which we can pass on to future generations.
Is there anything you need to do, individually, as a manager or head of an organization in regards to ethical behavior?
‘Love your life and live it to the fullest. Just do it with your EYES WIDE OPEN. Know that I am keeping my eye out for you. ~Cynthia