WHAT IS BUSINESS ETHICS?
Ethics is derived from the Greek worth ethos, which means custom or character. It is a moral guideline that governs people’s behavior and organizational morals.
Ethical behavior is doing what is rational and morally acceptable. This statement can be confusing; who determines what is right or wrong, seeing that it’s a personal judgment? This is the point of ethics. All of us have varying codes of ethics. We have different views as to what is right and what is wrong. The same applies to organizations.
Business ethics is knowing what is right or wrong in the workplace and doing what is right. Simple definition, but the implementation is not as simple because business ethics is a highly subjective concept.
A significant factor to note is the distinction between Ethics and Law. Ethics focuses on what is right and what is wrong. Law focuses on what is lawful and what is unlawful. It is essential to note this distinction because some businesses face situations where they are acting lawfully. We can argue subject to our moral compass that they are acting unethically.
Ethics has a close link to corporate social responsibility since both caters to the needs of others.
There are different approaches to ethics in an organization:
– The amoral business
Determined to win at all costs.
Anything is acceptable.
– The legalistic business.
Will obey the law no matter what.
– The responsive business.
Accepts that being ethical pays off.
– The Ethical business
They have high ethical practices as the core of their business.
Ethics are tested in business on a day-to-day basis; for example, Cold calling by the likes of MTN, GLO, AIRTEL, and 9mobile, we are all accustomed to these calls. They sometimes are a nuisance to the receiver, but the call center agent whose job is to call 100 customers per -day will not see it as unethical; this is a judgment call. This is an example of the Deontology theory; which states that actions are good or bad according to a clear set of rules.
Another example is in a hostage situation, where the policeman knows the only way to save 25 hostages is to shoot and kill the assailant. You can call this utilitarianism; it’s when you decide the course of action based on the benefits or harm the chosen action will bring without considering the cost.
Other theories exist like the virtue theory and relativism theory amongst others.
Benefits of ethical behavior for the business.
– Increased revenue, this depends on satisfied customers.
– Brand popularity.
– Employees are more motivated.
– They can attract ethical investors.
Drawbacks to behaving ethically.
– Higher cost of goods and services when sourcing from fair dealers rather than lowest prices.
– Higher cost of ethics training.
Behaving unethically can lead to a severe loss for an organization and backlash from the masses.
Rules of Ethical behavior.
1 Do not harm another person; in words or actions.
2. Contribute to the betterment of others.
3. Consider how you want to be remembered at the end of your life.
4. The Golden rule; do unto others as you want them to do unto you.
5. Admit your mistakes and move on.
Noel Coward famously said: “The higher the buildings, the lower the morals”, referring to the possible lack of morals within industries.