The Business Of Ethics


I have recently been thinking about a question I saw on the Charted Management Institute’s website, which was: “Have you ever been asked to do something at work that you felt was unethical?”
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Unethical Behaviour: Group Favouritism

Here’s an interesting question to start your day.

What’s the difference between discrimination and favoritism?

Is there a difference?

There is a very fine line between favoritism and discrimination and many of us, especially managers, don’t realize that we dance along that line on a daily basis. Here’s an example.

Let’s just say for the purpose of this example that you are a white manager. You have a white employee who is going through a divorce and she asks you, at the last minute, for an extra day off. Company protocol says you must request time off a week in advance but you are sympathetic to her situation and let her slide.

A black employee also asks you for an extra day off at the last minute. Instead of sympathising with her situation you point out that she really needs to ask for time off based on the guidelines in the employee manual and you deny her request.

Technically, have you discriminated against the black employee? You might want to say no because you simply followed company protocol. But, by allowing the white employee to take an extra day off without following the same protocol you are showing favoritism.

So where do we draw the line? Some of us are automatically discriminatory against religious, ethnic, age, and gender groups not because we’re uncomfortable with them but because we don’t identify with them. We don’t even realize that we’re showing favoritism because we’re simply doing what feels comfortable.

But answer this question.

If your cousin is a mortgage representative at a large bank and your brother in law is having trouble getting a loan, you’d ask your cousin for help. If your next door neighbor had the same problem, would you make the same referral? Why would you only offer to help those you are very close to?


Today I challenge you to take a few minutes and look at the relationships you’ve been forming with your team members. Are they ethical or are you showing favouritism to one group or another based on your personal likes and dislikes? Is this something you can change?

I hope so. Your success as a manager depends on it.

Thanks again,


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

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Ethics and the Economy

Today I want to address ethics one more time, and then we’ll give it a rest for a while. How you treat your employees is imperative, and how your employees regard you as an organisation is important as well. But have you ever given any thought to how your employees and organisation, together, treat the rest of the world as a whole?

Anyone not directly associated with your company should be treated with some level of respect. These people may include your actual clients, board members, brokers and suppliers, and even your competitors. This means making reasonable business decisions without succumbing to negative influence.

Let’s look at an example. Perhaps you are the person within your organisation in charge of ordering supplies. You’ve asked two major widget suppliers to give their best quotes. Company A has quoted a very reasonable price. Company B has quoted a price that is a few pounds higher, and the sales representative, upon realizing you might have a better quote, calls and offers you two tickets to the ballet. Both companies have impeccable reputations and provide excellent customer service. It’s your anniversary weekend, and tickets to the ballet would be the perfect gift for your significant other.

Which company will you go with? Technically, Company A has provided you with the best price and will continue to do so in the future. While those ballet tickets may seem appealing, Company B is merely offering you a bribe. If you take those tickets, you may feel obligated to choose Company B even though they won’t be the best for your organisation in the long run. Choosing Company B solely because of the ballet tickets would be considered unethical.

Other examples of how unethical behavior impacts business within the economy include the high costs of pharmaceuticals due to “research,” the inability of financial institutions to report correct numbers to the public, and business in foreign countries regularly (and legally) operating on systems that thrive on bribes.

How you view the rest of the world will show in your work and customer service. Make sure that your new managers receive the coaching necessary to identify and deal with unethical situations. Working as ethically as possible will keep your company off of the front page of the newspapers.

Thanks again,


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

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