One of the joys of being in your 40s is a new-found confidence, self-assurance and a no-bullshit attitude. You know who you are; you no longer waste time on people in either your private or your work life who don’t keep their word.
I’m talking about integrity: it’s such a small word, but one with enormous impact. Why is it so hard for some people to keep their word and act with decency and honesty in their business dealings? We all know the type: ruthless, unscrupulous people who rip you off at every opportunity, who owe money all over town. For them, business ethics are non-existent. Thank God for a beautiful thing called karma, I say!
Corporate etiquette expert Jodie Bache-McLean (pictured), the much-respected director of both June Dally-Watkins (JDW) and Dallys Model Management, says the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles is a highly admirable life skill that’s sometimes underrated in the business world.
“Ethics in business is extremely important; unethical behaviour or a lack of corporate social responsibility can damage a firm’s reputation,” Jodie says. “Ethics influence and contribute to employee commitment, customer satisfaction and reputation and image. And ethics are also about an individual’s moral judgement about right and wrong, so the decision to behave ethically is a moral one.
“If you keep your word, you do what you have promised to do. When our words do not match our actions, we lose a measure of healthy ownership and control over our lives.
“Essentially, this is what is called a soft skill. However, sometimes it’s the least-considered skill which is so paramount in what constitutes an effective manager or leader. Human or people skills refer to the core of ethics, treat others as you would be treated: with respect, honesty and trust.”
A lack of business ethics can be simply due to a person’s need to “save face,” Jodie says. “It is sometimes easier to lie than say no, or admit fault,” she says. “At times, we all want to avoid confrontation. The saying ‘a little white lie’ comes to mind – it is far easier to tell a little lie than to hurt someone’s feelings or cover up a mistake that you have created.”
So, can business ethics be taught, or are some business executives lost causes?
“First, you need to find your own moral compass, the way we behave is directly related to our learned behaviour. There is a saying: ‘you cannot give what you do not have,'” Jodie says.
“Teaching ethics is not like teaching finance or accounting procedures; it is about developing moral principles which define right and wrong from a universal point of view.
“But with all teaching, you need to lead by example. Many companies and business executives fall short on ethics in business and it becomes more about: ‘Do what I say, not what I do’. What they fail to recognise, is that showing business ethics is a strength, not a weakness.”
Images via corporatecomplianceinsights.com, youqueen.com