Thursday, January 1, 2015

Business Ethics: Maintaining a Moral Compass Despite the Pressures of Commerce

Business Ethics

The world of commerce is often a difficult one to navigate. Whether the position you hold is that of CEO, CFO or any other higher-level executive, maintaining a moral compass is one of the only ways you can help your company overcome the ethical obstacles, challenges and distractions the business world is bound to present.

You have to know, with certainty, the difference between right and wrong. You have to be able to maintain your integrity and be willing to be held accountable for the actions you take.
The CEO of Booher Research had it right when she stated in a recent Huffington Post article, "When people decide to disregard their moral compass as the official business handbook, they begin to make up the rules as they go."

This, in turn, can then present problems for the business itself, and become an additional source of conflict.

Attempting to Find Ways to Skirt the Law Can Be Very Dangerous

A business cannot hope to achieve long-term success if its officers and executives are busy trying to find ways to skirt the law, rather than adhere to it. When executives start looking for loopholes to get around standard accounting methods, it is usually a sign there is a serious, underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

Companies that are complacent about discrepancies and unethical practices are simply tempting fate. Those who seek out professional or legal advice, in an effort to "confirm" that the actions they are taking do not violate any business laws, are walking along a dangerous path.
One of the most highly publicized examples of what happens when business ethics disappears from the workplace is what happened with Enron and its executives.

According to recent remarks of former Enron CFO, Andrew Fastow, he never set out to commit fraud. At the same time, he was well aware of the "sketchy accounting methods" he was using, yet justified their continued use. Fastow goes on to say, "You can always find an attorney to give you the answer you want. You can always find an accountant to give you the answer you want. You can always find a board member who wants that answer. "

While this may be true, ethics in business is not about finding ways around the law. It is about commitment to excellence, integrity, accountability and doing what is right, even under the pressure to turn a profit.

Executive Responsibilities: Hold Your Position and Stand Your Ground

Individuals who cannot maintain their own moral compass have no business being executives. Being able to hold your position against argumentative superiors, and stand your ground even in the face of threats or disciplinary actions, is part of your responsibility as an executive.

If you refuse to give in to "shady" business practices, and insist on proper documentation and accountability, the future of your business will be much better off. 


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