When we think about ethics in business, the organizations that come to mind are the ones that go out of their way to state their morals; the companies that will dedicate a sizable portion of a mission statement or about us page to their integrity. What people often overlook is the fact that anyone can state that they intend to be ethical. A real ethical organization is constantly in a fight against deceit, fraud, and duplicity.
A real statement of ethics is the fight itself. You don’t necessarily have to be on constant patrol for ethics infractions. You can’t associate yourself with people who lack a high ethical standard. By partnering with others you’re entering into an agreement. When it comes to business, you represent your customers, employees and associates as well as yourself. As the conduit to those parties, it’s your job to vet the people that you grant access.
Is it in Our Nature to Be Dishonest?
In her new book Liespotting, Pamela Meyer says that lying is a cooperative act, and that all humans do it more than they know. On a given day you may be lied to 10-200 times. Strangers lie 3 times within the first 10 minutes of meeting each other. Extroverts lie more than introverts. We’re conditioned to lie, and to be lied to. When you let a lie stand as the truth, you’re making a compromise.
I decided to try and track the lies that I told in a given day. I wondered how much of a liar I actually was. What I found out is that after I brought awareness to the equation, I was more careful about not lying, and went several days without telling a single lie. Of course, the fact that I’m single and honest by nature helped a lot with that. If ethics and honesty is a big goal for you, why not change your circumstances to make it easier for you as well? I was surprised by how often the opportunity to lie came up, even though I
There were times that I thought it would be best to lie, but instead I would answer indirectly, without lying, to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings. “Is the chicken good?” “I liked the steak you fixed last weekend a little better”. In most cases however I would just tell the truth. Some people even seem to expect a lie. When you keep in mind that lying is a part of human nature, you can curb dishonesty for the most part.
We Tend to Keep Each Other Honest
As the general public starts to acknowledge that social media has a problem with fake followers, likes and product reviews, the ethics that your brand stands on will become more important than ever. Tools like Status People’s fake follower check, investigative reporting on buying fake followers and increased due diligence by individuals will all make unethical behavior in social media harder to get away with.
If users don’t pick up the slack in policing ethics, the platforms themselves ultimately will. A network that is based on providing product reviews loses major credibility when it comes to light that a large percentage of those reviews are falsified. One area where crowdsourcing has always been effective is in uncovering ethics violations, and platforms, although reactionary, are quick to address ethics violations after they’re reported.
3 Steps to Develop and Maintain Your Integrity
Posted: Ethics Required Beyond This Point
The first thing to do is to let everyone know that you intend to be ethical, and that it’s not just boilerplate. Include ethics statements in everything from your bio to the About Us page on your blog. Be specific about the areas that you intend to be vigilante in, and add links to the pages that relate to those areas. If your code of ethics is clear and omnipresent, most of the deviants that are looking for a community to ply their trade will pass you over.
Practice What You Preach
You don’t just want to say you’re ethical, you need to be ethical. If a project or piece of content doesn’t meet your moral standard, you can’t compromise no matter what. You need to practice what you preach, and this is one case where it’s important to brag about your achievements. If you find out that a payment processing vendor has a record of fraud claims, it’s important to publish your findings and let everyone know that you aren’t using that particular service because you suspect that your community will suffer for it. Of course, find the appropriate venue for your response, but send a clear message that all the talk about ethics isn’t just for show.
You are What you Eat
Lastly, remember that your friends are a reflection of yourself. If you associate yourself with people that do not consider ethics to be an important trait for businesses, their attitude and beliefs will eventually rub off on you. Even those above the influence of others will be degraded by negative associations. You can be a shining example of ethical fortitude, but if you’re constantly empowering black hats and people that have questionable practices, you’re guilty by association. Surround yourself with positive influence, and be wary of charlatans that do not practice what they preach.
Technology is ever evolving, and some practices that used to be considered taboo have gained a level of acceptance recently. If you’re unsure about whether a certain practice is ethical or not, just ask yourself “Is there a serious debate going on about whether this is ethical?”. If there is, then it’s probably not ethical. Everything that is politically correct and ethical is widely accepted as such. Remember that ethics as it pertains to business depends on what our culture identifies as wrong or questionable. Just because something isn’t ethical doesn’t put it off limits; people buy the fur from baby seals every day. When it comes to ethics and social media, the cover up is often worse than the crime. For the sake of your business don’t sell your soul for a bunch of worthless fake followers on Twitter.