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What are your professional and business ethics? What will you do, and won’t do, and under what circumstances?

In life, things are often convoluted. There are extenuating circumstances, and nuances that truly blur the line between absolute right and absolute wrong. Sometimes the choice is between two evils, and even the lesser of the two is marginal. Where do you draw the line?

Even though most of us want to live ethically, everyone is likely to have a slightly different definition for what this is. Would you cheat a customer for five million dollars of clear profit, if no one would catch you? Would you lie to land a contract? How important is your reputation?

Why do we even care about business ethics? Why not lie, cheat, and steal with impunity? Why not just look out for number one? Why should you care about the other guy? Isn’t it his problem to watch out for himself? Why not be a piranha in the marketplace, and chalk up collateral damage as the cost of doing business?

The ROI on Ethics

While some may argue that ethics are for the stupid and naive, ethical behavior creates a significant return on investment.

  • Like attracts like. Professionals with high standards are sought by peers and organizations who share those standards. Your reputation precedes you.
  • Life is simpler if you don’t lie. Ethical behavior is efficient.
  • Ethical actions tends to be legal; unethical actions often are not. An absence of ethics is likely to be punishable in court.
  • For those with a conscience, ethical behavior minimizes stress.

Even with a commitment to strong business ethics, beware of the slippery slope. The philosophies of “every man for himself,” and “business is business” can be a tempting excuses for questionable decisions.

Decisions and actions have consequences far beyond the immediate. Do the right thing. Consider the impact on your reputation. News travels quickly, and once shared is impossible to contain. Act ethically; guard your reputation and position yourself for long term success in business.