I remember being a fresh college graduate and on the job in my first manager role. I was traveling on an overnight trip and on my way into breakfast, I bought a newspaper. I had missed reading the one I’d paid for already that was languishing on my doorstep at home, so it seemed quite justified that I would expense the one I bought that morning at Denny’s. A week later my expense report was paid, minus 25 cents for my newspaper. Newspapers were clearly NOT to be expensed in my company! Of course, I thought to myself I could just throw in another dollar to my tip account! Who would notice one dollar in the midst of hundreds?! I had a 25 cent ethical dilemma on my hands.
How about a few bigger ethical dilemmas? What do you do with these issues:
- Should you point out on a reference call for a friend that they were fired from their previous job?
- Should you retaliate against someone by not promoting them if they refuse a corporate move to another city?
- Should you fire an employee who was drunk on the job?
- Should you discipline someone for stealing from the company?
- What do you do with a Christian employee who is taking company time to share their faith but their unit is always off budget?
- If you are a follower of Christ and biblical teaching, and are asked to work on a project that violates your beliefs, should you dive in anyway because you need the job?
- An un-married co-worker suggests dinner with you while you’re both out of town on business for the company and staying in the same hotel. Should you accept?
What is ethics anyway, a set of rules you create? A set of commands you adhere to because of your faith? Could it be that ethics has its roots in the character of an infinite being? It seems clear that you and I can’t simply create the rules as we go along in life. If there’s no line, we end up being okay with cooking the books to save taxes, or using the company credit card to put gas in our cars, or even entering a massage parlor while telling our spouses we were at a business dinner. There has to be some kind of plumb line that’s always clear and true no matter what the circumstances.
Christian ethics experts note that ethics must have its underpinnings in the character of an ethical moral being. As an example, God is a God who exhibits the character trait of justice. That’s why we should be just in our leadership – not simply because of a set of rules we make up. Kindness, fairness, forgiveness, humility, compassion and love would all follow as Godly character traits we should mirror in our leadership. Good ethics is always good business and its roots are in the character of God.
For a deeper exploration and reading on this topic, Convene recommends “Beyond Integrity: A Judeo-Christian Approach to Business Ethics”, By Dr. Scott Rae.
Greg Leith is the CEO of Convene. He was born in Canada and lived in all four corners of North America. His career spans over 35 years of senior leadership roles in corporate, non-profit and academic sectors.