Archive for the ‘Business Ethics’ Category




Well, do you?

How are you fixed for ethics? Integrity, principle, probity, honesty: concepts that often are overlooked, taken for granted or disregarded in today’s hectic world. ‘Business ethics’ simply isn’t; It deals with values and morals—the way we think things are—and tends to be arbitrary. The real ETHICS we’re talking about is more fundamental and powerful than either business or even legal ethics. This, the REAL ethics, represents THE WAY THINGS SHOULD BE.

Ethics. What is it? Well, it’s not the plural of ethic nor is it difficult to define. You may think of ethics as truth, and of morality as applied truth, better known as honesty.

Can you see how this differs from business ‘ethics?’ Ethics is not debatable. It doesn’t vary with the situation. Nor does it vary with the law. The law is a product of society and can be changed in accordance with society’s wishes. Ethics isn’t even a product. It’s a given, a foundation of humanity (humanity is by nature ethical).

Like truth, ethics either is or isn’t. The way things should be is honest–surely we can agree on that. Truth doesn’t change. The law changes according to the needs of society. Truth can’t.

Can we achieve ethical parity? Of course we can, but first we have to stop kidding ourselves that things are the way they ought to be and that they can’t be much better because ‘that’s just the way it is.’  We start by being honest with ourselves and then move on to being honest with others and asking honesty from them.

Truth is perfect, the ultimate benchmark. Be honest and chances are excellent that you will at the same time be ethical and moral. Starting with truth, we all start at the same place. Knowing where a person is coming from makes it easier to deal with that person, easier to trust. And trust is the basis of any real relationship.

And relationships are the key to better living. Start with truth, build trust and live right. No one can do better, and there’s really no other acceptable alternative.

(This is from an article appearing [1995] in Consulting Today, the publication of The Consultants Bureau. It’s still current.)



One need look no further than the uppermost reaches of academia for examples of ethical disintegration.  And it’s being taught…

From the ethics chair at the Harvard Business School: “What is a lie under circumstances in which no one expects the truth to be told?”

And a professor at the Chicago School of Business tells us that people lie because they are expected to lie–he calls it an “expectations trap.”  There’s more, but the article concludes: “A little lying might, indeed, go a long way.”

From an article “Why Be Honest if Honesty Doesn’t Pay?”(Harvard Business Review): “There is no compelling economic reason to tell the truth or keep one’s word.”  Money is an excuse? More from a Harvard Business Review: “The ethics of business differs from the ethics of religion,” and we are advised to “sin bravely” in business; and another from the same hallowed source: “There are no concrete rules when it comes to ethical implications of cheating, and…“as long as you’re getting your work done, (cheating is) forgivable and…forgettable.”  And: “ethics depends on the specifics of a situation.”

If this isn’t enough, a Professor (Business Ethics) at Utah claims that “We all carry around two sets of ethical standards” which he calls “gaming ethics” and “personal ethics.”  Further, he says that it’s OK to do some wrong things sometimes.  One might wonder how these folks would deal with cheating on exams…  Or define morality…

And from “How To Cheat On Your Boss,” in the March 1999 Entrepreneurs’ Business Start-Ups:  “(W)ith a proper ethical perspective and a keen eye toward caution, stealing a few hours off the time clock can actually prove to be beneficial…even for your boss, since many ‘cheaters’ admit to working harder at their day jobs to keep from getting caught.”

An entrepreneur(?), apparently following this axiom, admits to working on other projects while billing a client for his time and, “as long as I feel (?!) like I’m providing the service I’m being paid for, then it doesn’t bother me at all.”  We aren’t told if it bothers his clients.  Could these examples (all verifiable) be the reason for business ethics’ reputation (as a contradiction in terms)?

Is it any wonder that the country’s in trouble?  Comments welcomed, as usual…


Living with the truth is, in fact, what EXTREME ETHICS is all about.

John Ransom in a recent column: “Today all you have to do is repeat a thing often enough and it becomes true. …(P)eople can no longer recognize even their own lies. They can’t distinguish between what is true and the fantasy that exists only in their imagination.  And…there’s only one word you can use to describe it: psychosis.”  Strong words, remarkably well-put and worthy of our attention.  But wait…  Is it the TRUTH?

Well, before we can deal with that question it’s necessary to come to terms with truth. 

Truth is, simply, what is, tangible and verified or verifiable, real and actual, that exists.  It is a noun and only a noun, one and the same as reality and fact; it does not require even the word the to express it.  Truth is.  Anything else is not.

The word true, on the other hand, is a modifier (adjective, adverb) once removed from truth. A true statement is a statement about  something, not a thing, and has an opposite: false.

But truth has no opposite.  It is instead the absence of falsehood.  Further, to decide that something is false requires a standard.  That standard is TRUTH.

And as a standard, truth does not change with the times.  It is a given—absolute and unconditional—that the world cannot exist without The earth was flat for people in the 4th Century (a true statement, but not truth).  While it’s true that they believed it and in fact lived it, for something to be truth it must be true before, true now, and true in the future. The statement obviously is not.

An exercise in mere ‘semantics’?  No, a distinction that must be made.  One can debate true, but not truth.  Living with the truth requires living with reality, not anything else.

The world can exist without lies. Lies are a product, an artifact, of man rather than a fact of nature.  We in fact live with truth (what is) inevitably every day whether or not we recognize it.  Lies are what we construct to mask the truth for whatever reason.

To conclude this piece, let’s consider Ransom’s word psychosis: phobia, obsession, lunacy, insanity, mental illness—all artifacts of man, products of lies understood or not.  Is that your choice?

Living with the truth only requires that we actively deny—do not accept—lies.  Extreme?  You bet, but it’s your choice—to be real or not.    Can you handle it?

You can start with politicians…


ETHICS and RISK MANAGEMENT:  Truth, Trust and Honesty

Risk management is like walking a tightrope.  You can play it safe by walking the low rope.  Or you can walk the high rope with more risk of damage but a chance at bigger gains.  Nobody ever said that walking a tightrope, or making decisions, was easy.

Risk is real, and taking risk is a fact of life.  But taking foolish risks is, in a word, senseless.

An awful lot of risk is being sold by an awful lot of ethicists(?) these days.  Some of them, at very prestigious institutes of higher learning, are teaching their students that it’s OK to lie.  And/or cheat.  Don’t believe it?  Check out  An example from an issue of the Harvard Business Review:  “There is no compelling economic reason to tell the truth or keep one’s word”  (note the keyword—economic.  Money is what it’s all about today).  I’m not making this up.  So goes the state of “business ethics” these days.

A lot of money is being made by a lot of unethical people (including “ethics consultants”), but being unethical is courting disaster.  Why take foolish risks when you don’t have to?  Lying, misleading and shading the truth are unethical, not to mention foolish risks.  You can do a lot of positive risk management simply by being honest.  While there still may be risk, you’ll sleep better.

One of the time-tested tools available for anyone’s use is, of all things, truth.  Truth is the basis of ethics and being ethical will never hurt you in the long run.  It can also help immeasurably in the short run.

And not only will honesty and integrity always stand you in good stead in managing risk, it also will pay dividends in your personal  STRESS  management.  Someone once correctly noted that by telling the truth you don’t have to remember what you said, thereby freeing your mind for better things.  Not only that, but you take fear out of the picture—fear of getting caught, fear of punishment.  A free mind is free of stress as well.

Any meaningful relationship is built on trust.  But how can anyone trust someone who lies to him, or worse?  If truth is the benchmark, trust follows.  It’s that simple.  Honesty leads to being ethical, and being ethical goes a long way toward reducing stress and managing risk.

Try it.  You’ll like it.



I’ve long suspected that the rampant liberalism of the 1960s would have toxic effects on our society in the future.  The future is now.  That being said, I propose the following:

[My own well-documented research in this area in preparation of my MBA thesis (Unionization And The Professional; Fairleigh Dickinson University, 1970) was done at the very time the movement was active, so I have more than a passing knowledge of the subject.  A recent interview with Fred Siegel by Matthew Kaminski (Wall Street Journal, November 26-27, 2011) brings it into sharper focus.]

Believe it or else: our current financial crisis is in large part a result of public sector unions. The decline of the blue-collar worker in the ’50s resulted in decline in union membership, heralding a decline in union stature and commensurate decline in union power.  In order to survive, unions had to look elsewhere for membership.  Failing in their attempts to unionize private sector (the economy) professionals and white-collar workers, they turned their efforts to the public sector. (more…)

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