Ethical Decisions Make You, Your Company Healthier

Originally published: 05.01.12 by Kyle Scott


You don’t need to be religious to see that good behavior yields good results.

When the choice is to feed your family or break the rules, the decision isn’t tough. Who could blame Jean Valjean in Les Miserables for his choice to feed his family? We even applaud Robin Hood for stealing. But when you are the boss and have to decide whether to fire employees or fudge numbers so you can keep them on board, the decision might be more difficult. Being ethical has a higher cost in hard times than in good times, which makes being ethical difficult for some in the HVACR industry still suffering from weak demand. But, even good times can encourage bad behavior as one might get a sense of invincibility when the money is rolling in.

 

Philosophers and theologians make abstract appeals to a higher good that lose their force when confronted with real world choices. Those things that are immediate and tangible have a greater impact on our decisions than those that are obscure or distant. In addition to all the reasons academics, philosophers, and ethicists give for being ethical, there are persuasive reasons for being ethical, particularly when times are tough. And when times are good, you may find that acting ethically may even help prevent a

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turn for the worse.

 

Acting Ethically Will Make You Money

There is no doubt that anyone can make a quick buck by being dishonest. However, when taking a long-range outlook, this policy has a detrimental impact on the bottom line. Let’s take the example of a superior taking credit for another person’s idea. Companies thrive off of new ideas and innovation. If company policy states an employee must report an idea to a superior before pitching it to the entire company, there is a risk that the immediate superior may co-opt that idea as their own. This creates an atmosphere of distrust in which the best ideas are not being circulated for fear they might be stolen. Or, worse, the company may lose their young rising stars to the competition.

 

Acting Ethically Will Save You Money

Think of all the money your company has spent on accounting, human resources, and the legal department because, at some point some people thought it would be a good idea to act badly. Compliance-related expenses cut into your bottom line and steal resources from more lucrative ventures.

 

If you are in a position of authority, it is your job to exhibit the type of behavior you desire from your employees. Reconsider partaking in bad behavior – the short term gains will lead to long term losses.

 

Acting Ethically Will Save You Time

When you act unethically, not only are you wasting money, you are wasting time. Loss of time leads to a loss of productivity, leading to a loss of money; hence, time itself is a valuable commodity.

 

When people spend their time on endeavors that are productive and rewarding, they will enjoy their job and be better at it. If a workplace can effectively create an environment that encourages ethical behavior — through incentives and rewards that focus on process rather than output; by hiring the right people; and by placing people who act ethically into positions of power — it will have employees who want to be there.

 

Acting Ethically Will Improve Well-Being

When we do something wrong, we feel guilty about it. Psychologists have shown that even when we can rationalize bad behavior, guilt affects us physically and emotionally. We are tense, nervous, distrustful, and unwell. We enjoy life much less when we act badly, even if acting badly gives us those things we first thought would make us happy.

 

Likewise, if a workplace permits bad behavior, employees won’t trust each other and so likely won’t collaborate and share ideas that might improve the company’s performance. Even employees who act ethically will worry that they always have to be on the lookout for someone taking advantage of them. This saps people of time and energy.

 

There are many reasons to act ethically, most of which draw on a higher good, and there is nothing wrong with this. However, before considering more lofty reasons why you should act ethically, think about the practical consequences first. Don’t feel the need to consult an obscure philosopher or book to decide how to act — just know: Being ethical is good for you and good for business.


Articles by Kyle Scott

Ethical Decisions Make You, Your Company Healthier

Being ethical has a higher cost in hard times than in good times, which makes being ethical difficult for some in the HVACR industry still suffering from weak demand. But, even good times can encourage bad behavior as one might get a sense of invincibility when the money is rolling in.
View article.