Practicing Ethical Behavior in a Business Environment

In business, it is important that companies understand how to conduct themselves in a way that is fair and honest. This conduct covers how the company responds to problems that may arise as well as how it interacts with current and future clients, customers, colleagues, or anyone that they do business with. In general, one of the key factors in a company’s success is its ability to do business in an ethical manner. The ability of a company or corporation to do the right thing and the principles that guide its actions are known as business ethics. These values or principles are often documented to ensure that everyone within the company is able to behave appropriately and make the right decisions when necessary. Unfortunately, not all businesses see the benefits of strong ethics. These companies often attempt to cut corners in quality or service, or they may somehow break trust with their clients or consumers. This behavior is detrimental and can be costly in terms of lost business and damage to one’s reputation. For this reason, it is important that all companies, regardless of size, understand what to do and not to do when conducting business.

Create and Adhere to Company Values

All businesses should have some form of value statement that helps guide the actions of the individuals who represent it. Despite the importance of this statement, however, there are many businesses that do not have one. In these cases, it is necessary to develop a corporate values statement that everyone in the company can follow. This should be easy to read and accessible to everyone who needs access to it in the event of difficult situations or if there is a question about how to conduct business in general.

Understand Related Laws

Businesses are generally governed by rules, standards, and regulations that are specific to them. Often, people do not know what all of these regulations are, and as a result, they may inadvertently break them and act in a way that could be considered unethical or illegal. To ensure that everyone within a company follows the laws and rules that apply to their industry, upper management should review them with all of the employees to ensure that they are understood. In discussing related laws, the consequences of ignoring or failing to adhere to them should also be made clear.

Avoid Unethical Dealings

In business, there are always times when a company is asked to conduct themselves in a way that is unethical. There are times, for example, when a client, vendor, or some other business may request that a company ignore laws or regulations to create a situation or deal that benefits them in some way. When this happens, it is important to deny the request. This means training staff on what to do in these situations and how to respond even if the person making the request assures them that “everyone does it.” While one can simply deny the request when it is made by a customer, action should be taken if it comes from an employee of another business. Report the representative to their superior or, if the request is made by the owner or upper management, avoid any future business dealings if possible.

Don’t Rationalize Potential Problems

When behaving in a way that could be considered unethical, people will often attempt to make excuses. Even when a person has yet to engage in questionable behavior or actions, their subconscious will often recognize that what they are planning to do is wrong. As a result, they may attempt to justify their actions to help make themselves feel as if it is okay. If a person finds that they are beginning to rationalize thoughts or behaviors that are clearly wrong, they should stop, step back, and consider whether what they are attempting violates the code of ethics.

Don’t Ignore Instinct

One’s instinct will often signal trouble, but it is often dismissed or ignored entirely. Not everyone attempts to make excuses for the actions that they’ve taken or are planning to take. In some cases, a person may think that what they are doing falls within the company’s guidelines and doesn’t violate any laws or conflict with its values. They may even be asked by a superior to perform a task that they feel does not align with the company’s values. Despite thinking that everything may seem aboveboard on the surface, a person may still experience an instinctual feeling that something is not right. When faced with this gut feeling, it is best to stop what is being done.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

When a person isn’t positive that what they are doing is legal, ethical, or in line with company policy, they should seek verification before they proceed. Depending on the situation, ask a co-worker who is knowledgeable about company policy or turn to a supervisor or manager for help. Employees should be encouraged to seek advice when they have questions that affect how a company conducts itself and is perceived. In addition, while management should not make employees feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, they should stress that not seeking answers to questions is unacceptable.

Speak Out About Potential Problems

A company’s reputation is in the hands of everyone who works within it. While a person can only control and take responsibility for their own actions, they should not ignore the unethical behavior or actions of others. If a person believes that someone is conducting themselves in a way that is detrimental to the business, it is helpful to tactfully speak with the individual in private. This is important, as it gives the individual the opportunity to explain their actions. In some cases, the person may not recognize that what they are doing is wrong, or it may simply be a misunderstanding. If the behavior continues, however, it may be necessary to inform the individual’s supervisor.

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