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Using business ethics to guide your choices

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Ethical behavior is an important part of everyday life. Being an ethical person should not start or stop once you leave your home. Parents, for example, cannot expect to teach their children proper ethical behaviors if they act one way at home and a completely different way at work. Personal ethics and business ethics are one in the same. Of course you will probably not encounter the same types of situations at home versus at work, but the same principles will apply. Below are more examples of how you can use business ethics not only to guide you in your business decisions but also in situations outside of the office.

Honesty - Really, honesty can encompass many different ethical issues. Honesty in the workplace is as simple as following the outlined policies to the letter and spirit of the law. Honesty is not an attribute that can be twisted or manipulated. In the workplace as in your personal life, you cannot be accidentally dishonest (this is called ignorance). Honesty has become an especially difficult trait to maintain when it comes to monetary gifts and political contributions. Do not allow greed to over-power your good judgment of the difference between right and wrong.

Integrity - A businessman with integrity is worth more than his weight in gold. Speaking in business terms the supply for people of integrity is ever falling short of the demand. Many years ago a person's word was valued the same as a signature or a recorded promise. Integrity was not something to be taken lightly or misused. Integrity is becoming more and more difficult to define in real life situations because in many cases it is not simply defining the difference between right and wrong. For example, your business can have excellent ethics policies. Your policies may have resulted in many very personal satisfaction stories. Is it appropriate to use those stories as marketing instruments? Opinions will differ.

Respect - Respect for other people is certainly an ethical behavior that reaches far beyond the walls of your office. Respect for another individual means that you treat him or her better than you yourself would like to be treated. Respecting another person's background, personal space, values, opinions and beliefs would completely eliminate claims of harassment. Likewise congenial relations outside of the office will gain you the respect of others.

Compassion -
Have you ever heard the phrase, "It's not personal, it's business"? Many times this is far from the truth, especially when it comes to those of us with small business. Your business is very personal to you and just as a professional blow can hurt you emotionally, aggressive actions towards another company are not always worth the damage created. Hostile take-overs, industrial espionage, etc. can lead to devastating losses. This is not to say that take-overs are morally wrong. But compassion in the workplace, as in life, means looking beyond the bottom-line and examining the larger and personal implications of our actions.

Equality - It is hard to think of equality in the workplace without also thinking about discrimination. In the business world you are aware of how much emphasis is placed on equal opportunities in the workplace. These principles remind us of the importance to respect another person's right to be different than you.

Responsibility - As a business owner you have a responsibility to earn and guard the trust of your employees and your shareholders. Sometimes it is impossible to satisfy both parties.

Principles of leadership -
Governing your business ethically is much more difficult than writing policies and having meetings. Using business ethics to guide your choices is a way of life. Being an example of that way of life is the best leadership skill that you can develop.

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Posted by DF
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