Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Disagreements with the Boss: Ethics in Business

In an ideal world, we would all be free to work for ourselves or for those people who exactly share our code of morals, ethics, and sense of honesty. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case, and there may come a time when you as an employee, whether you've worked your way to management or not, have to make some difficult decisions as it comes to your ethical boundaries. After all, nothing can get in the way of a clear conscience like the prospect of losing your job, or being passed over for that next big promotion. On the other hand, there are the practical considerations. If your boss gets caught doing something underhanded or even illegal, who's going to get thrown under the bus? All things to think about when, within the world of business, you're forced to make a choice between being true to yourself and loyalty to the boss.

It certainly doesn't have to come down to something illegal, or even clearly underhanded. Many of the most difficult decisions in this arena comes from something as simple as differing points of view. Take this example, for instance. Your boss decides that, as manager of the district office, it is perfectly fine, and incumbent upon you, to read all employee interoffice email. It is quite likely that, within the frame of the law, your boss has every right to ask this of you, and every right to do this to his employees.

However, the privacy issue and how you personally feel about invading it, is quite another matter. You may have no leg to stand on from a perfectly legal standpoint, but this doesn't mean you should keep quiet, right? It all depends, of course. And this is what business ethics is all about; choices, and various shades of gray. Your family may not understand why rent cannot be paid simply because you didn't want to look through Susan and Bob's inboxes. Then again, maybe they will understand.

There is another consideration to make. Standing up for one's beliefs can look terrific on a resume. Getting fired for slacking off or trading insider stock reports will make it difficult to find future employment. But getting the boot because you refused to budge on an issue of ethical meaning?

That's quite another matter entirely. If this happens to you, be not ashamed of bringing it up in your cover letters to prospective employers. Most will applaud your courage, and it's entirely possible the next job will be better than the last.

Ethics is business will always be a shady area, and it's an area you will need to make your place in to become comfortable in the business world. Test your own boundaries and make up your mind ahead of time what you will and won't stand for. That way, when the time comes, you won't have to hesitate to make the right decision for your family, your career, and most importantly, yourself.

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