Has this ever happened to you? One of your key customers fails to pay you, you receive incorrect or inferior information from a supplier, your suppliers fail to communicate with you. How do you feel when this happens? Turning the tables, how do you think your customer/client feels when they receive this type of treatment?
Sadly, this kind of behaviour is all too common these days and generally accepted as normal business conduct in many companies. Even though the behaviour is accepted, it doesn’t mean it’s right. The law may not be broken in a number of these examples, but these kinds of immoral behaviours will very quickly damage a business’ reputation.
At it’s simplest, ethics is a set of moral principles that governs a person’s behaviour. Ethics is not only concerned about what is best for the individual, but what is best for society as a whole.
When looking at business ethics, the same guidelines apply. The business ensures that a set of moral principles are applied when engaging with internal and external customers. Therefore, business owners should realise that they are not just in business to make money, but that they also have a responsibility, a duty to behave ethically to positively influence society.
When we consider unethical business behaviour, we often think about the bigger immoral behaviours, such as insider trading or lack of corporate social responsibility. However, there are smaller less noticed immoral behaviours that business owners will often engage in on a daily basis, that negatively affect their internal and external customers. Unchecked, these behaviours such as not paying your suppliers on time, ignoring customers complaints or queries, prioritising certain customers ahead of others, providing customers with incorrect information or not providing enough information, over-promising and under-delivering to make the sale, filter into the business culture and become normal, accepted behaviours.
The following is a list of ethical traits, which you can check yourself against. These can be built into your business values, which help to guide your business mission and vision.
Honesty and transparency – providing correct and honest information builds trust and loyalty. Telling someone what they want to hear, rather than the truth, may have a positive result initially, but will always end badly.
Respectfulness – showing respect to all no matter their position, title or pay grade. Practising active listening, patience, compassion and attentiveness are examples of respectful behaviour. Remember, this applies to both internal as well as external customers.
Fairness and Justice – treating everyone with the same level of respect and integrity. Not having favourites, and not applying different rules or standards to different people. A fair and just business owner is a respected one who has loyal and trusting customers and employees.
Confidentiality – In many businesses these is a legal confidentiality requirement, however this should apply for all businesses, legal requirements or not. Discussing customers with other customers is a definite no-no.
Ethical leadership – I left the best for last. To instil these above ethical traits into your business you need to lead them. It’s not good enough to just talk about these characteristics, you need to action them, live them in your business. You cannot wait for team members or others to take the first step, it comes from you. What does it mean to be a leader? What traits would you like to work on?
To ensure you keep this as a priority focus, keep the following in mind – Treat others as you would like to be treated.
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