The media’s continual exposure of industries, corporations, and leaders that have failed to achieve successful outcomes because of ethical misconduct is overwhelming. This week we will take a closer look at some of the reasons corruption occurs and discuss various components that can help leaders create an environment that influences ethical decision making. In order for change to occur, however, leaders will have to develop systems that enhance awareness in the ethical decision making process. In other words, to achieve successful outcomes as an ethical company, their operational choices and actions must contribute to responsible corporate citizenship.
To begin this process, they start by focusing their concerns on ethical issues that they have and may face today in their industry. By doing so, they are in a better position to integrate practices that will support an ethical culture into the strategic decision making process. Because leaders and managers are the role models that establish an ethical culture, they must also focus on individual issues within the company’s environment. For example, one of the hardest issues for anyone to deal with is confronting an individual when they are caught in a lie. Everybody wants to believe that the people they are closest to or work closely with, will not engage in lying as a strategy, under any circumstance for any reason. But, we all know the truth – everyone does it. In fact even Dr. Phil agrees with this view. In his book, Life Code (2012) he blatantly states that everyone lies (McGraw, 2012). Sometimes a person will use lying as a strategy to get out of a sticky situation, like getting caught doing something they were not supposed to. Other times a person will lie to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings.
No matter what the reason, the person feels justified with this strategy or they wouldn’t use it. This is where ethics comes into play. When faced with challenging obstacles, it is up to each individual to make a choice or engage in an action that will yield the best outcome. However, the manner in which they engage in this process comes down to their own perceptions and concepts of doing the right thing. Some will apply the golden rule and make their choices based on their own morals and personal code of ethics. Others may have a tunnel vision agenda and make their choices solely based on achieving their goals, no matter what the cost. Many want to do the right thing, but become confused because what is perceived as right and wrong behavior for one individual may not apply to another, or go against the policies of the firm they work for. In addition, many people are raised in an environment where corporal punishment is instilled for getting caught in a lie. The adults in charge, however, that dole out these penalties for lying, for various reasons, are the same people who are caught lying themselves – to each other, their families, and at work. This behavior sends a confusing message, because even though people are taught that lying is a punishable offense, they also learn that by imitating the clever behavior of those who lie in leadership positions, they too may get away with lying as a strategy. It doesn’t help that ethical issues are portrayed as laughable topics by many favorite characters on TV sitcoms who engage in the strategy of lying. From shows like The Big Bang Theory or Seinfeld, many episodic plot lines are centered around characters having to deal with the consequences of their tall tales once they are exposed.
In my eBook, Ethics in the Real World (2013) I explained how my ethical views were shaped from an early age and when I discovered that telling the truth yielded positive outcomes. Knowing that the consequences which result from lying as a strategy are risky, it makes me wonder why so many people, including respected leaders as well as highly revered and trusted family members, engage in behavior that includes lying as a strategy. On Wednesday we will discuss this further and take a closer look at situations that occurred when lying was used as a strategy to help us determine if it can and should be used as an effective tactical move as well as when this choice can yield disastrous outcomes. Until then, stay organized.
You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. – Dr. Phil
Berry, M. A. (2013). Ethics in the Real World. USA: Kindle Direct Publishing.
McGraw, D. P. (2012). Life code: New rules for the Real World. Los Angeles, CA: Bird Street Publishing.