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Establishing Your Company's Ethical Practices

(December 2010) posted on Tue Dec 07, 2010

Thinking about how to approach your business relationships and evaluate the role of ethics.

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By Marty McGhie

At some time during your business career, it’s likely you’ve experienced a situation in which you have been treated unfairly by someone else in a business deal. Or perhaps you’ve had a situation when you found yourself taking unjust advantage of another in a business or a personal relationship. While it may not have been illegal, it just felt wrong. Open up the newspaper or browse the business headlines and you’ll quickly realize you’re not alone -- you can find examples of people behaving unethically throughout the business world.

My intent here is not to teach (or preach) what is right and what is wrong. Rather, my objective is to get you to think about how you approach your business relationships and evaluate the role that ethics plays in those relationships.

Employees, suppliers, and customers
First off, let me clarify that when I say “unethical” practices, I’m not referring to intentionally illegal or fraudulent activities. While fraudulent and illegal actions certainly qualify as unethical, there are many instances where unethical practices would not be considered illegal. In fact, one of the quickest ways someone often justifies an unethical act is to declare, “Well, it’s not illegal!” Let’s examine a few areas to consider whether you practice good ethics.

One of the key areas of focus in your business will always be the employee-employer relationship. There are certainly areas where employees can be unethical with their employer such as inaccurate time reporting, padding expenses, or just wasting time. The inundation of social media, for instance, has become a serious topic when it comes to the productivity of employees – so much so that many businesses are now setting policies to avoid the amount of wasted time that can occur.