Business Ethics: The Good, The Bad, The Confusing

Most people we know want to be good. Does being good most of the time count? Personal and business ethics, why seemingly more confusing now than ever before?   — BadWitch

Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…

Dear GWBW — I hate to admit this but as this is a confidential question, I ask in case others are in a similar boat as mine. I consider myself to be a very highly ethical person 99% of the time. I am in a position of authority at work. Once in a blue moon, I have considered doing something that would compromise my personal integrity because I know it would benefit me and no one would be the wiser. Is there anything I can do to assure I don’t ever breech my personal integrity on the job?  — Boss Man


Dear Boss Man,

Ethics are a multi-faced Rubik’s cube rolling along a slippery slope.

I can only take your self-description here at face value. Being a human being with integrity doesn’t mean you’ve been canonized for sainthood or otherwise superior to Joe the Plumber. It’s the point where the rubber really hits the raceway. If you have earned a position of authority at work (or anywhere else in life), to my thinking, you have likely allowed something larger than yourself to guide you more days than not. On the other side of that same coin, I further believe that we’re all here because we have something to learn, and just like school kids, if we encounter the same lesson (presented as problems or life challenges) over and over again (think ‘Groundhog Day’), it’s because we haven’t learned the lesson yet. The sign of learning and subsequent growth is realizing you have new “better” problems to now hammer out — sort of like an ironic promotion.

Your delicate question sounds to me closer on the situational ethics side of the thin line, than the business ethics side. And in this question, that’s a hair-thin line! As I can’t imagine the honchos at Enron, et al, asking themselves these questions you pose, I feel confident to say to you: Let your personal ethics rule you in these trying episodes. Try not to throw the baby (your hard work and good rep) out with the bathwater, and instead keep checking yourself, chief, and stay frosty against your own shortsighted inner demons, soldier.

Be the North Star you want to follow,


“In order to be a leader…the supreme quality of a leader is unquestionably integrity. …The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.” — Gen. Dwight Eisenhower


Dear Boss Man,

OK, in life morals and business ethics only you can decide to “do the right thing.” Each and every one of us has the ability to do some questionable deeds under the table. There are no angels who don’t see the seduction of the dark side. Hell, even Jesus was tempted…more than once.

The difference is what you choose. The greatest gift of humanity is freedom of choice. We can choose to strive for our best or not. We can choose to weigh the benefits of all against the advantage of the one, or not. We can choose to approach business ethically or, we may not. The choice is yours, and, frankly, I’m pretty sure whatever I say here will have very little effect on your eventual choice.

If you are writing with this question, you are already pondering breaking the rules. An opportunity is being presented to you and you are deciding between business ethics and, well, Bernie Madoff. Let me say, fail-safes exist in companies. Many a former employee has been shocked to find their company had been following their unethical behavior. Great employees have been lost from companies because they have been disgusted by the unethical business practices of managers. In other words, you may put blinders on to whether anyone knows about what you have been doing, but in a work environment where you are in a fishbowl with the same people day-to-day, the inevitability of someone getting a whiff of your dirty deed is pretty high.

Listen, no one is granted immunity from temptation, but what separates the truly great from those of the dirty deeds propping themselves up on others’ is integrity—a personal decision to live life free from lies, drama and “getting over.” It is a simpler life. You don’t have to back track what lie you have told to which person and whether cells of lies will intersect causing whole new and elaborate stories to be needed. It’s about making a choice to rise above base instinct for survival so that you can thrive, truly enjoying life and its gifts. Do the right thing. Let karma work for you, instead of unearthing the skeletons in your closet.

Choose to do the right thing,



Juicy Coaching for Leaders and Individuals.

Mondays money, work, purpose dilemmas. Thursdays family, relationships, love dramedy. Send your FREE brewing questions on how to thrive—not just survive— modern life to:

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