Can Ethics and Business Coexist?
I recently interviewed an SEO Expert as a potential subcontractor who claimed to offer only “White Hat SEO” services. After discussing SEO at length and what qualifies as “White Hat” he said “then articles will be published on 500 blogs with links to your client’s website” [screech!] Obviously that isn’t “white hat.” Some people would argue this is “grey area.” I would argue that in this example Grey = Not Ethical because it isn’t a natural process.
A natural process would be ethical. An article is written, it is liked, shared, analyzed and digested and may or may not result in a derivative work or two. And, if you’re lucky the derivative works link back to the original article.
Why Be Ethical in a Competitive World?
Look at competitive sports where doping is rampant. Only the megalomanic who sincerely doesn’t care about anyone else can live with it. The others live in great pain, depression, shame and some even kill themselves. There is no pride in cheating to win. The joy is temporary, the win is empty.
For people that are ethical because “it is the right thing to do” there is no need to ask this question.
If “doing the right thing” isn’t enough ask yourself these questions.
What if every Person, Every Business, Every organization was unethical?
How can you expect to be trusted if you trust no one?
What if you knew that you would be cheated or taken advantage of in every interaction you had?
Ethics, Thought Process and Grey Area
First we have to be careful about semantics because “not ethical” and “unethical” sound like synonyms but “not ethical” could mean “not 100% sure it is ethical.”
If it feels wrong it probably is.
If we have to justify it is is probably wrong (example: Everybody is doing it so it is OK for us to do it.)
Is the process natural or organic? If the process is being manipulated then you have to ask yourself more questions.
Does it harm others physically, psychologically?
Does it harm the planet? (which hurts everyone physically)
Is it the right thing to do?
Ethics and Digital Thinking
1 = Ethical
Maybe = “Not Ethical” (Grey Area)
0 = Unethical
Seems simple but in business isn’t..
Why Ethics is Challenging for Business and Governments
Yes, No, and Grey areas are pretty easy on a personal level. But when priorities shift away from being ethical to being profitable, or when you have a question about saving 10 lives vs. 1 life you end up having more challenges. Let’s call this “multi-variable” ethics.
Group think is another reason ethical boundaries get blurred. Groups can be intimidating. No one wants to be the “outsider.” So it is likely that no one will speak up when there is an ethical dilemma.
Humans are social creatures and there is always a pecking order no matter how polite a culture is so perfection is hard to reach but like a martial art perfection should be something to continually strive for.
How to make your Business more Ethics Friendly (not perfect)
The most important thing is to make Ethics the number one priority in all decision making. If anything else is the highest priority then ethics will suffer.
Hire ethical people — Challenge interviewees with questions that reveal how they think.
Promote ethical people.
Create a safe environment where people feel safe to speak up. Encourage people to ask questions and challenge each other openly without repercussions.
Ensure that Leaders insist on direct feedback. Discourage “Yes Men,” and “Ladder Climbers” who will do anything to get ahead.
Establish a review process prior to finalizing major decisions.