Perceptions and Ethical Decisions in Today’s Business World The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
James R. Perrin
National American University
No matter how great the products or services are, customers will not beat down the door in numbers needed to stay in business if their view of the business is not positive. Sometimes, it only takes unsubstantiated negative publicity, or poor ethical choices to make a business start to flounder. Therefore, CEO’s, CFO’s, COO’s and Small Business Owners need to establish sound goals, make ethical choices and keep a positive perception, of their business among most audiences. Poor perceptions are next to impossible to overcome and years may not necessarily cause the public to forget or change the poor perceptions. While a Fortune 500 company may have the resources to survive erroneous perceptions, a smaller corporation, or a “Mom & Pop” store may not. Even a great public relations firm cannot always spin the bad into a good light.
Public perception, brand loyalty and the ethical choices made by the controlling management of a corporation will determine whether a company will be successful or fail from the onset. Bailouts, recession, inflation, bank failures, poor choices, a vigilant press, greed and a new President, all are signs of the times; times that have the public on edge. Take recent stories on the American International Group, Inc. (AIG), a world leader in insurance and financial services. Their executives purportedly received over 165 million dollars in bonuses while the company was failing and asking for a bailout from the government. These actions just about sent the public over the edge. To the public $165,000,000 is such a large number that most people cannot fathom the amount, even though the bonuses were part of prior existing, legally executed hiring contracts. Americans were outraged. First AIG fails, and then the government spent billions of the tax payer’s money shoring it up and after all that ridiculous bonuses were paid to the operating heads. And for what end; running the company in the ground? Ethically, would it have been better if the executives didn’t get the bonuses? Perhaps, it may have caused the executives to tighten their belts and take a hard look at the way they were doing business. Then public’s perception of the corporation and its ethic standards may have been much better than the current perception. The pittance of money represented by the bonuses was less than one/one thousandth of the bailout billions spent by President Obama, but legal costs to fight the bonuses would have surely cost both AIG and the government more than just paying the them in the beginning. Yet, the perception of the public is the one that counts. They’re the ones who are angry. It appears that an initial reaction to the public outcries is that big business will restructure and big bonuses are a thing of the past; future bonuses will be tied to the bottom line. This just proved how influential and powerful ethical choices, (a branch of philosophy which seeks to address questions about morality; that is, about concepts such as good and bad, right and wrong, justice, and virtue, (Dictionary,)) and public perceptions (an attitude or understanding based on what is observed, heard, read or thought, (Dictionary.com,)) can be. Folks everywhere acknowledge that it's easy for several people to view the same situation very differently. Ask any police officer canvassing following an incident. If the officer talks to 10 people that all saw the incident, they will get 10 different versions of what happened. In today’s world, people are increasingly working around the globe. This means that interaction takes place in varied and different cultures. This variance has an even greater meaning to the way folks perceive and respond to ethical decisions. Perceptions and...