Knowledge Center


Article -> Business Ethics Can't Be Ignored

Date Added: April 2010

Note: This article appeared in the May 5, 2010 issue of The Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Inaccurate data is presented. A co-worker intimidates others. Information isn’t reported. Nobody is held accountable.


Most likely, we’ve all worked with someone we believed did something unethical. Something they shouldn’t have done. Something against company policy. Something you believe is wrong.


Unfortunately, many never address this with leadership. Fear of losing your job. Fear of being a whistle blower. Fear that nothing will change. Although, if you do nothing, are you now practicing the same unethical behavior? How do you maintain your values to address this?


Comments you may hear from your leader include: “Don’t worry about it,” “It’s standard practice,” It’s not a big deal,” or “It’s not my responsibility.” If it’s standard practice, ask, “Why isn’t there a written policy?” or “Is this something we’re comfortable discussing with the public?”


Handling the other items takes more thinking. Consider the issue as any other business decision. Clearly state the issue. Support it with facts, rationale and a persuasive dialogue. Personalize it to your audience. Deliver it at an appropriate time.


Be yourself and leverage your strengths when presenting. Provide support of the faulty thinking by using examples of other experiences you’ve had that resolved this. If you’re new to the organization, use this to your advantage by demonstrating naivety.


Ultimately, present alternatives to challenge this and explain the long-term gain (bigger picture) of the ramifications to the organization. How are employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, community, brand, etc. affected?


Here are some questions to help you prepare a plan to handle this situation. What is the issue and how are you affected? How are other key stakeholders affected? What exactly needs to be addressed and what is your supportive rationale? Do you have all information to confront counter-arguments? Who should you speak to? What has happened when others have tried to address this in the past? When is the best timing? Do you have any allies for support? What is the best venue? What communication style will you use?


Employees can set the tone by not being afraid to discuss items with leaders. Leaders need to show they effectively resolve issues. Together, the organization becomes stronger.

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