Strong business ethics is vital to ensure a successful long-term career. One single thing that you can do that will make you stand out in life and in business is to cultivate very strong fundamental values and make it define who you are.
In practice, strong business ethics is not a common trait in employees, as you may have noticed yourself. If ethics were common we would not need so many laws and enforcement agencies. We could simply expect employees to do what is right. This, however, gives you a competitive advantage. In business, strong fundamental values could include many things but the underlying value is integrity at all times. Integrity must guide all dealings with internal and external stakeholders.
More important than integrity is the image of having integrity. It is a halo which can protect you from accusations. It takes years to develop this halo but it can be lost in one act, lasting just one second.
To cultivate strong business ethics, one needs to acquire or strengthen several business values that are vital for anyone who would like to succeed as a professional and as a leader.
Guide to business ethics
Be ethical regardless of the consequences in dealing with stakeholders of an organisation.
Do what is the best for the company. Sometimes it can mean doing what is the best for the client, if you work on projects for specific clients, such as in management consulting. Doing what is best for the company sometimes means forgoing immediate profits for the company, and even upsetting your co-workers.
- Take pride in your work at all times.
- Do your best work at all times.
- Never say anything negative about someone behind that person’s back. If you have issues with someone, approach them directly.
- Do not gossip or spread rumours. Do not take part in gossiping. Rumours have many untruths to them and you do not want to damage anyone’s reputation.
- Be professional at all times.
- If you promise something – deliver it as promised, but when needed, use opportunities to renegotiate the deadline.
- Do as you advise others to do.
- Respect your time and that of others.
- Promote justice. Give people credit for their work and never accept credit for work done by somebody else.
- Stand up for what you believe in. If you see wrongdoing, especially the kind that can be damaging to a company’s reputation or performance, do whatever you can to change it and refuse to be a part of it.
- And last, but most importantly, remember that family and the people you love always come first. This does not mean that one can miss a deadline if there is a birthday coming up. In such situations you will have to negotiate with both parties and use your best judgment. What it does mean is that, in all your decisions, you need to keep your family’s interests as a highest priority. For instance, you cannot neglect your husband, wife or children for a few years while you are building your career. This will cause irreparable damage to your life. You have to incorporate their interests now into your schedule.
Ethics vs. Personal Commitments
Take care of yourself. Always remember that if you work yourself to the point that you will get ill, regardless of how outstanding your performance was, you will be replaced. Your employer and management may feel very sad that you are leaving, and may even have to hire two people to do your job, but they will replace you and in time forget about you.
Therefore, always remember to put your health and your family first. Those are the real assets of your life, not your title and the corner office. If you cannot reconcile the needs of your family with those of your career, then you need to think long and hard, and possibly walk away from your career.
Do not go against your values to accommodate behaviour which is not ethical.
The above points on business ethics were probably just a reminder, as they are intuitive. As you go forward, you can incorporate other guidelines that you feel are important. However, it is important to make sure that your values are not negotiable. That is why we call them values. As people often say; if you don’t have values – you don’t have anything. Values and moral principles only count when they are tested. Everyone has them unless they are put to the test. Then only a few truly have them.
Strong values will always make you stand out and are vital for your long-term success and happiness in all areas of your life.