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In his very informative book, ‘There’s No Such Thing as ‘Business’ Ethics’, John Maxwell tells us of one simple idea of getting back to ethics in business organizations. That one simple idea is called the Golden Rule, which many of us have learned from a young age, from the Bible, states, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, New International Version). In business ethics, owners, managers, financial officers, etc., often revert to what is easier for them and not what is the right, or best decision for the business organization. In several situations over the years, ethics has not been used the way it should have been, and caused the public, or even the companies own employees to lose their trust in the business organization. Maxwell states, “Most people are disgusted with the state of ethics in America. They are sick of dishonesty and unethical dealings” (Maxwell, 2003, pg. 3).

Maxwell shares with us an in depth look into how we need to learn how to make ethical choices in our personal lives in order to use ethics in many business organizations by following the Golden Rule. This Golden Rule is something, he says, everyone should follow, he states, “People who desire to find a good, honest standard of ethical behavior to live by can find it in the Golden Rule” (Maxwell, 2003, pg. 24). The Golden Rule, when followed, will only lead you in a positive direction, but there are a few things that can cause a setback.

Setbacks to following the Golden Rule can happen at any time throughout your journey to make ethically sound decisions. Several factors impede a person from being able to continue, in one way or another, to make the right decisions, and can compromise their ability to be ethical. Maxwell states these factors as: “Pressure, Pleasure, Power, Pride, and Priorities” (Maxwell, 2003, pg. 73-87). When you feel as if you cannot make ethical decisions, ask yourself about these five factors and how you can get through the negativity of each one.

People who follow this Golden Rule are generally good, honest people, they treat people with kindness, respect, and above all, dignity. If you take this outlook with you, everywhere you go, in everything you do, people will be able to trust you and be willing to work with you. Maxwell’s final thoughts tell us, “Those who go for the Golden Rule not only have a chance to achieve monetary wealth, but also to receive other benefits that money can’t provide” (Maxwell, 2003, pg. 134).

In an article titled, ‘Why the Golden Rule Must Be Practiced in Business’ (Hayden, 2016), Hayden reiterates the idea that the Golden Rule is important, but is not as easily followed in the business world, as it is in our personal lives. The Golden Rule should be just as important in business as it is in our daily lives. Hayden states, “It’s important to recognize that ethics are directly tied to a company’s long-term success” (Hayden, 2016). To leave ethics out of a business completely, and to not be able to make ethical business decisions, would surely be detrimental to not only the growth of the company, but those employees that depend on that business for support.

When ethical decisions are made in a business, not only does that affect the business, but also the employees, and the financial officers, as well. In a business where horrible, unethical decisions are made, employees can lose trust in their employer and become less satisfied in their work environment. Hayden tells us, “A satisfied workforce will be motivated to provide great service to your customers, and they’ll be more loyal to your company as well” (Hayden, 2016). If the employees are seeing that profits are being lost because of unethical decisions, they will ultimately leave the company which could leave many unsatisfied customers.

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In our book, Maxwell tells us of companies that are not using ethical principles, but are, instead, going by what is the legal thing to do. Maxwell states, “Some companies have given up entirely on trying to figure out what’s ethical and are instead using what’s legal as their standard for decision making” (Maxwell, 2003, pg. 12). How can a company make unethical business decisions, and still maintain the laws which surround those business decisions?

In an article by Cindy Phillips, titled, ‘Three Levels of Ethical Standards in a Business Organization’ (Phillips, n.d.), Phillips affirms the earlier comment by Maxwell about companies doing what’s legal instead of what’s ethical. Phillips states, “There are situations where the actions of a business organization are legal, yet they may not be particularly ethical. This is a fine line and the organization has a responsibility to self-police if it wants to be held to a high ethical standard” (Phillips, n.d.). One example of a business making legal actions versus unethical actions is the situation with oil drilling. Fracturing, which is the process of drilling using a hydraulic fluid is a perfectly legal actions, however the fact that the use of the fluid can create a multitude of problems for the environment, and the companies’ continuing to use this practice can be deemed unethical. This is a great example of that fine line that Phillips mentions in her article.

Although there are several ramifications that a business organization of the individuals that run them, can face when making unethical decisions about the company, there are still a lot of business out there that, unfortunately, continue to go down this path. With the biggest ethical scandal of all time, Enron, many of the financial officers and owners of the company have faced years behind bars and fines, but yet these unethical business practices are still continuing, but know these companies have found legal ways around them. Phillips tells us, “Though a business organization may be bound by applicable laws and internal policies, adherence by individuals determines the true integrity of the company” (Phillips, n.d.). Integrity alone should be enough to teach business owners that all of their decisions should be ethical.

In an article called, ‘Right and Wrong in the Real World’ (Halberstam, 2006), Halberstam dives deeper into the statements by Maxwell about making ethical choices in our own personal lives. Many times, we are faced with trying to make the best decisions, not right or wrong, for a certain situation that we are in. Learning to cope with the decisions we have to make in our personal lives can help us maintain a high level of ethics in our business decisions, as well. Halberstam states, “The interesting ethical questions aren’t those that offer a choice between good and evil – that’s easy – but pit good versus good, or bad versus even worse” (Halberstam, 2006). How we handle these situations isn’t necessarily the same way anyone else would handle them, there are no right or wrong answers, the way to deal with these situations is to do what is best for the good of everyone else.

One interesting piece of information that I found about this book, after believing that ethics is something that everyone can be taught, was a passage in our book by Maxwell. Maxwell tells us of a company that tried to have a class about ethics, but it didn’t go as well as planned. A columnist, shares with Maxwell, “Companies are hiring firms to offer online ethics classes and consultants to produce huge ethics manuals…It’s not helping. Worst of all, the desire of such companies often isn’t to make their businesses more ethical” (Maxwell, 2003, pg. 11). This is a sad situation, that business organization don’t want to learn to be more ethical.

I believe this book is a very important piece of literature. Not only does it give us examples of how businesses make unethical decisions, but it teaches people that in order to use ethical principles in business, they need to focus on their own personal way of making ethical decisions, and how to work through the factors that can compromise the making of ethical decisions. He teaches us there is a way to follow the Golden Rule but not look for gold in a situation. The title of the book really says it all, business ethics aren’t really a thing, it’s how you use ethics in your daily living to make you an ethical person that is the key.

References

  1. Halberstam, J. (2006, March 1). Right and Wrong in the Real World. Retrieved from Greater Good Magazine: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/right_and_wrong_in_the_real_world
  2. Hayden, B. (2016, September 11). Why the Golden Rule Must Be Practiced in Business. Retrieved from Entrepreneur: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/281387
  3. Maxwell, J. C. (2003). There’s No Such Thing as ‘Business’ Ethics. New York: Warner Books.
  4. Phillips, C. (n.d.). Three Levels of Ethical Standards in a Business Organization. Retrieved from Chron: https://smallbusiness.chron.com/three-levels-ethical-standards-business-organization-30863.html

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