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November 8, 2013 — A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By James Drever, business adviser, certificate in teaching business ethics, University of New Mexico
“For business ethics, I just tell my employees to do the right thing. Is that enough?” Jenny, Laramie
Although telling employees to “do the right thing” is better than nothing, it is pretty close to nothing. Most people think of business ethics in simple terms, such as “don’t steal,” “respect others,” etc., when in reality business ethics are what guide employees and organizations during times of tough decisions.
What might seem like the right thing to one employee may differ for another. For example, an employee might cut a corner in the sales process knowing that, by doing so, he will get the business a big sale, which to him seems to be the “right thing.” Substitute “skip a step in the production process” or “use a cheaper, inferior part to bolster the profit margin” in place of “cut a corner” to see how this example can quickly become unethical.
Think of business ethics as part of a corporate culture and how important it is to have values during decision-making and action-taking processes. Business ethics should be thought of as a framework, rather than a rulebook, so that new issues can be addressed within that framework to ensure that a business’s ethical standards are being maintained.
Rather than telling employees to “do the right thing,” develop the business’s values and its own set of ethics to create a business code of ethics. Once there is a code of ethics, employees need to understand them and realize how important they are for the business.
Until a code of ethics has been created, the book, “Texas Instruments’ Ethics Quick Test” is a good reference tool that addresses ethical issues, such as those listed below:
-- Is the action legal?
-- Does it comply with our values?
-- If you do it, will you feel bad?
-- How will it look in the newspaper?
-- If you know it’s wrong, don’t do it!
-- If you’re not sure, ask.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email email@example.com or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.