Why are ethics important?
Recent events in corporate America have demonstrated the destructive effects that occur when the leadership of a company does not behave ethically. One might wonder why highly educated, successful, and business savvy corporate professionals at Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and Adelphia got themselves into such a big mess. The answer lies in a profound lack of ethics.
Running a business ethically is good for business. However, "business ethics" if properly interpreted means the standards of conduct of individual business people, not necessarily the standards of business as a whole.
Business leader are expected to run their business as profitably as they can. A successful and profitable business in itself can be a tremendous contributor toward the common good of society. But if business leaders or department managers spend their time worrying about “doing good” for society, they will divert attention from their real objective which is profitability and running an efficient and effective organization.
Applying ethics in business makes good sense. A business that behaves ethically induces other business associates to behave ethically as well. If a company (or a manager) exercises particular care in meeting all responsibilities to employees, customers and suppliers it usually is awarded with a high degree of loyalty, honesty, quality and productivity. For examples, employees who are treated ethically will more likely behave ethically themselves in dealing with customers and business associates. A supplier who refuses to exploit its advantage during a seller's market retains the loyalty and continued business of its customers when conditions change to those of a buyer's market. A company that refuses to discriminate against older or handicapped employees often discovers that they are fiercely loyal, hard working and productive.
It is my firm belief that a “good man or woman” who steadfastly tries to be ethical (i.e. to do the “right...
References: • Ethics Resource Center at http://www.ethics.org/
• International Business Ethics Institute at http://www.business-ethics.org/
• Global Initiatives for the Ethics Officer Association
• Learned, Dooley, and Katz, "Personal Values and Business Decisions"
• James Kouzes & Barry Posner, “The Leadership Challenge”
• Patrick Kuhse, “Speaking of Ethics” (our August speaker)
• ASQ code of ethics.
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