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7 Signs You're Not as Ethical as You Think

Danielle E. Alvarez

Do you believe you have strong ethics? You probably do. Just about everyone answers "yes" to that question. If you think about it, that's a problem.

"The comment we hear most often is, 'I'm ethical, it's everyone else I'm worried about.' That can't be true of everyone," says Mark Pastin, CEO of the Council of Ethical Organizations. He's spent the past 30 years advising companies and governments about ethics.

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  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    Great points made about valuing employees, loving the employees that raise issues/problems, and the importance of delivering bad news face to face.

    • Lou Pizante

      I agree that there are many good points in this article and applaud Mr. Pastin for putting forth what he considers to be some bright line rules (and Danielle for sharing!). While I agree with most of what Mr. Pastin says, I do believe that business ethics is often more nuanced and the responsible decision-making more challenging. Take for instance his advice regarding rewarding loyalty with substantial pay increases. While this is a seemingly principled approach, basing compensation on factors other than economic value can have unintended consequences. Compensation is a zero-sum game. as the price of a company's product's or services correlates to its costs to deliver them and, therefore, a company's competitiveness correlates to its expense function. If expenses are too high, the company loses customers and revenue opportunities, as well as possibly the ability to raise capital to survive or fuel growth. This might mean that it is unable to attract top talent or, worse still, stay in business and pay all its employees. I have been responsible for the financial health and success of several companies. I have stayed up many nights worried about ensuring employees can put food on their tables, pay their children's tuition and maintain affordable health care. My concern is for the well-being of all employees. So I need to make sure that decisions relating to any one are meritoriously based and consistent for what is best for the whole organization. Treatment of vendors is similar. I believe that you should treat everyone with respect and appreciation, not just clients. Your vendors are an extension of your organization and if you treat them right then they will help you take care of your customers. However, paying early is poor financial management. The terms of when you pay is a negotiated part of any agreement (the most common term is net/30, which means 30 days after invoice). When you pay early, you give up interest you would be earning on your cash. This is a small amount, but in aggregate it adds up. The vendor is not asking you to pay early, just on time. To pay early is akin to paying more. You would not go to a store and pay 5% more than what the store owner is asking just to show your appreciation. I don't really see anything ethical about that. In fact, I think it is unethical, because you are increasing costs for no reason... I'd rather spend that money on the tenured employee!