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Max Pinto
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Well written...many ethics programs overemphasize the philosophical aspect of ethics, without due emphasis on the practical aspect. I have a policy of distributing free abridged versions of my books on leadership, ethics, teamwork, motivation, women, bullying and sexual harassment, trade unions, business law, etc., to anyone who sends a request to Maxwell Pinto, Business Author
As far as slightly exaggerated expense claims of executives and other employees, here is my take: I understand that two wrongs do not make a right, but how about looking at this in another way i.e. are employers justified in underpaying employees in the knowledge that "if the employee finds the compensation package unfair, he or she can leave and we can find a replacement quite easily?" Is this not "stealing" from the employee, in a subtle manner? Or, are we gonna play a game of semantics and say "Well it's not really stealing because we have the employee's consent?!" Okay...then it's taking undue advantage of employees during salary negotiations and ripping them off, largely because of economics conditions, the recession, low profits or what ever other lame excuse employers choose to mention (and even discuss). Many employers talk about teamwork and then keep the rewards of teamwork basically for themselves, while using sweet words of praise, a pat on the back, etc. and perhaps buying employees a meal every now and then or giving them some free tickets to the movies. (An employer-employee relationship is a business courtship or marriage, depending upon how the relationship is handled by both parties. Job satisfaction and the welfare of corporations and individuals depend upon the degree of motivation through money, respect, fairness, challenging assignments,etc.) Great leaders realize that profits and improved cash flows result from fruitful relationships with all stakeholders, rather than from relationships that satisfy their own greed and irritate others. Great leaders structure compensation packages which promote effectiveness, thus reducing the temptation to cheat on expense claims and in other ways. What I say is " Lead by example. Do not take undue advantage of your employees and other stakeholders. Then see who tries to cheat you, instead of cheating employees and others in a subtle manner, and then acting as if you are being taken undue advantage of." For free abridged books on leadership, ethics, teamwork, motivation, women, sexual harassment, unions, law, etc., write to Maxwell Pinto, Business Author
Informative and true...some thoughts on ethics: Ethics is concerned with "doing the right thing" but... Moral standards differ between individuals depending upon their upbringing, traditions, religion, social and economic situations, and so on. Hence, the existence of grey areas. Therefore, state the “moral” problem in a simple manner and review feedback so that an acceptable decision can be made with minimal overall harm/loss—i.e., we are concerned with “Pareto optimality,” which is related to the net balance of benefits over harm for society as a whole. Economic theory is concerned with the efficient utilization of resources to satisfy consumer wants and to maximize profit and satisfaction. Pareto optimality exists at the point where it is impossible to make any given individual better off without harming another given individual. Although most businessmen believe that profits and cash flow are very important, there has been a move toward the recognition of social responsibility. The blind pursuit of profit has resulted in bribes, environmental problems, injured workers, unsafe products, closed plants, and so on—this is unethical. Many business schools emphasize the philosophical, rather than the practical aspect of ethics. We need a practical approach to the solution of ethical problems. Ethical leadership calls for morals, fairness, caring, sharing, no false promises or unreasonable demands on others, etc. Is “ethical leadership” an oxymoron? I believe that "ethics" should be a part of all management courses. Yes, there are grey areas depending on different perspectives, but there are also areas of "black" and "white". There is more to ethics than drafting and implementing codes of ethics for others to observe. Leaders should lead by example and refrain from adopting an approach which conflicts with ethical interests. Therefore, leaders should respect and care for all stakeholders, rather than only stockholders e.g. show that you care for your employees, customers, suppliers, the community, etc. Making false promises and unreasonable demands on employees and others, preventing participative management, talking about the "green" approach as a public relations exercise, rather than adopting a "green" approach, is unacceptable. Ethics is conscience-based, knowledge-based and attitude-based, and not suited to some individuals, who, by their very nature, have consistently demonstrated selfishness and greed. Can any ethics training program prevent Bernie Madoff, Vincent Lacroix, Conrad Black, etc. from being themselves ? No, but a well-designed & implemented program can (a) help good people to do the right thing consistently (b) make it more difficult for wrong-doers to succeed & (c) raise people’s ethical IQS*. Business ethics is concerned with dealing with dilemmas that sometimes do not have a clear indication as to what is right or wrong e.g. potential conflicts of interest, wrongful use of resources, mismanagement of contracts, false promises and exaggerated demands on resources which include personnel. Right and wrong are black and white - pure and simple. Our ethical system and behaviour are a function of several factors, including our cultural background, upbringing, education, ego, environment, circumstances and the related stress. Hence, the development of gray areas i.e. areas where explicit rulings or guidance is not available Looked at in another way, there are shades of black and shades of white, just like when you go to a paint shop to buy black paint or white paint or when you go to a clothing store to buy a black suit or a white suit. If you find that your ethical standards are higher than those of most people, you should follow your own standards. It is possible to improve, from an ethical point of view. As we mature into adulthood, we develop an ego and try to use our communication skills to justify our behavior, while focusing on our own goals. With our ego-based approach, our innate selfishness, and the influences of friend and environment come many gray areas. One's image will depend on one's operation within the black, white and/or gray areas. This should always be borne in mind. Alas, many business schools provide courses in business ethics which which are philosophical, rather than practical, in approach. This needs to be rectified in the light of experience in the real world. Research confirms that the focus on ethics deters people from straying, although it is difficult to alter the basic nature of some people e.g. Bernie Madoff and Vincent Lacroix. Constant communication and open discussions on ethics foster a bond between individuals who are keen on being ethical and help promote teamwork built on good spirit. Emotionally intelligent people are often more ethical than others. * confirmed by Research from the Assocn. of Certified Fraud Examiners, the Ethics Resource Center, and other firms. I have a policy of distributing free abridged versions of my books on leadership, ethics, teamwork, motivation, women, bullying and sexual harassment, trade unions, business law, etc., to anyone who sends a request to Maxwell Pinto, Business Author
Unethical behaviour in the workplace or elsewhere is unacceptable, but I have always turned a blind eye to small items e.g. an employee stealing a few pencils, erasers, sheets of computer paper, etc., because I believe that (a) most employers do not pay an employee what he or she is worth and these small thefts do not come anywhere near making up the shortfall; (b) these small thefts may motivate the employee to work more effectively, such that the benefit to the company may exceed the cost e.g. a small amount of time spent checking one's personal e-mail account or even looking at a beautiful/handsome employee, instead of focusing on work all the time; (c) an employee needs to be happy in order to be productive; (d) employers often do not lead by "ethical" example, so what gives them the right to expect pure ethical behavior from other stakeholders: employees, customers, suppliers, etc.? I say "don't talk the talk, unless you can walk the walk and see (a) above; (e) there are very few human beings who are 100% pure and honest and we need to run a business by employing human beings, because robots cannot do everything for us, etc., etc. so let us adapt to human nature and minimize our discomfort, knowing that very few of us are 100% pure, ethical and unselfish. I have a policy of distributing free abridged versions of my books on leadership, ethics, teamwork, motivation, women, bullying and sexual harassment, trade unions, etc., to anyone who sends a request to Maxwell Pinto, Business Author
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Jan 15, 2010