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Ethics and that Personal Line!

There has been a lot of talk about ethics over recent years, a big focus on corporate governance and accountability particularly in the wake of the big news scandals at Enron, WorldCom etc. I wrote a little about this some time ago ... focusing in on business leaders like myself rather than corporate giants.

One of the central features of each of these scandals was a sense of entitlement exhibited by those involved. Today I thought I would talk about personal accountability when it comes to ethics. You have to ask yourself whether those people at the centre of those scandals always had that sense of entitlement? Did they come to "learn" that it was acceptable (to them) to use corporate resources for their own gain?

Ask yourself where your personal ethical line is?

The Pen and Computer Test

Is it OK to take a company computer home and keep it for personal use? I would assume most of us would answer absolutely not, that it is stealing.

Is it OK to take plastic pen from the office and give it to my kid? I think most people would have no problem with that ... it's worth just a few cents, it's an almost disposable item and probably "everybody" does it.

So then ask yourself ... if it's OK to take a plastic pen but not OK to take a computer where is that line? That is a tough question and it is not easy to answer ... IF you think taking the pen is OK.

The Bogus Lunch Test

Is it acceptable to expense a lunch when the client didn't show? As a salesperson what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when it comes to claiming expenses? If you are "bringing in the numbers" should the company turn a blind eye to that kind of "fraud" (because it IS fraud).

Did those corporate leaders who are sitting in jail used to cheat on their expenses? Did they start small and "move their personal ethical line" as their comfort level shifted? Perhaps they always felt "entitled" to cheat.

The Time Test

Is it OK to fudge your timesheet a little? Maybe claim an extra hour, or not mention that hour you slipped out to the dentist.
Is it OK to put in a 7 hour day and be paid for an 8 hour day?
Is it OK to use work time to complete your personal tasks, without making it up?

Where is Your Personal Ethical Line?

Much of what I have talked about is just done, taken for granted in the same way that those corporate crooks felt entitled to their spoils ... just on a smaller scale.

I would suggest that you need to adopt a personal code of conduct that is squeaky clean. It really is not worth damaging your reputation, or worse, just to cheat a little on time, to take a few company assets home or to gain a dollar or two on the expense sheet.

If your personal ethical barometer is not enough to stop you from this kind of behavior then think about consequences.

How would you feel if a company camera caught you taking stuff?

What if an audit uncovered timesheet irregularities?


So ... set your standards high and don't mess with them. They become your Core Values and you can live by a code of conduct to be proud of.