The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
I know I’ve given you activities similar to this before but I’d like you to take some of the new information about honesty and ethics into consideration as you think about today’s question.
You have two resumes on your desk. One is from a bright, young college graduate with no experience. His college major is in line with the work you do within your organisation and – even better – he graduated from the same university you went to and has the same fraternity ties!
The second resume is from a man with a college education as well. He has about 20 years experience in the industry and has been relatively successful.
They’re both good candidates, but how will you choose?
Will you look at their experience levels? The younger candidate has very little but he’s mallable – you can mold him the way your organisation wishes him to be. He’ll also present a fresh, modern viewpoint when it comes to new developments. The second candidate is older – true – but he has all the experience. Will he be difficult to work with or will that experience add value to your team?
Or – will you hire the younger guy because you have common interests?
Oh – you didn’t think people made unethical decisions like that? Well, they do. And the funny part is that many of them don’t even consciously realize they’re choosing one person over another for an unethical reason. They’re justifying their decisions with concrete points that simply aren’t as strong as they could be in order to cover up the real reasons.
So which candidate would you hire? I’d love to know!
The truth is that most people really are honest. They want to believe that they are doing the right thing for everyone involved in a given situation at any given time – and they want to be respected. Dishonest people aren’t respected in the business world. Most people actually want to be honest. Very few people wake up each morning and decide to lie their way through the day. Those who do lie do so out of a sense of necessity – as if not doing so will lead someone to believe they’ve been let down.
While most people want to be honest in business, it is true that earning yourself a bad reputation can be detrimental to your success. One terrible mishap could make a lot of people angry. They’ll begin to retaliate against you. They eventually let others know about your bad decisions and you lose business from others as well.
One example of a slightly dishonest and incredibly detrimental business decision is highlighted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. During the late 80’s, Exxon partnered with 7 other oil companies to convince Valdez to build a tanker terminal. They believed that the likelihood of an oil spill was very low but promised that if there ever was such an incident they would have the necessary cleanup equipment on site within mere hours.
On March 24, 1989, one of the oil tankers left Valdez, headed for California. The ship struck Bligh Reef and more than 10.8 million of the 54.1 million gallons of oil on the ship spilled into Prince William Sound.
And guess what? Exxon had fudged the numbers a bit and really didn’t have the equipment necessary to respond to such a disaster within “mere hours.”
Before long, more than 1,300 square miles of ocean was covered in oil. Sea otters, seabirds, salmon, and seals were covered in oil – most dying before they could be rescued. The actual cleanup cost around $300 million and after several court cases and appeals Exxon ended up paying more than $2.5 billion in punitive damages.
Exxon, believing an oil spill was highly unlikely, cut costs on cleanup equipment. They may have thought it the right thing to do at the time but they misrepresented themselves to the people of Valdez.
And they paid dearly, in both cost and reputation, for that mistake.
Is that the type of reputation you want to build for your organisation?
There’s a rumor circulating about the world of business – it states that honesty pays. Every once in a while, though, I have to wonder if honesty is really the foundation upon which successful businesses are based on.
About 20 years ago there was an article in the Harvard Business Review. The article questioned whether or not honesty and integrity were prominent factors when determining if a business will become successful or not. Realistically speaking, building a business upon a dishonest foundation is completely possible. It can be profitable. And the odds of getting caught are – well – slim to none, in most cases.
To start the week off I’d like you to think about your position within your business. Have you, as a manager, ever made an unethical decision? Have you ever told a little white lie just to convince an employee to meet a goal or to make a sale? Do you think that you, as a manager are the only person bending the truth to get things done? How deep into your organisation would you have to dig to uncover something bitter – and perhaps a lot more questionable in terms of ethics?
Over the next couple of days we’ll take a look at a few situations that push the line when it comes to ethics. I hope we’ll prove that you can build a business with 100% honesty and integrity – even if it does take a little more work upfront!
Yesterday we started talking a bit about bias and today I want to touch just briefly one one of the four main types of bias – the conflict of interest. You may be wondering how conflict of interest can be categorized as a bias and I’m going to explain just that.
Simply put, if you are favoring people who you believe will be able to provide you some sort of perk or benefit later on down the line you have a conflict of interest. You are biased towards those people because of what you hope to get from them and instead pass over people who may be better qualified to do the work but less able to throw a perk your way.
How unfair is that?
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re the office manager in a physician’s office. A pharmaceutical representative comes into your office to try to give you information and samples about a new cholesterol medicine. When he visits he brings you free samples, a huge tray of bagels and fruit for the entire office to share, and a really nice padfolio to thank you for your time. He also tells you that for every new rX for this medication you write your office will receive a bonus or referral fee.
A pharmaceutical representative from another company comes in with a different cholesterol medicine. She brings you some free samples but doesn’t shower you with gifts. Instead she gives you a lot of great information about the drug and the research and studies behind it. The cost for consumers is a bit less than the other drug, too. The pharmaceutical company doesn’t have a referral program so you won’t get any kickbacks for selling what looks like a decent drug.
Which will you choose?
You might, right now, say that you’d pick the second but the truth is that if you were in that situation you might unconsciously choose the first. Why pass up the opportunity for a referral fee, even if the drug isn’t as great as the second, right?
Wrong. That’s comletely unethical.
But do you even realize you’re making decisions like these?
I urge you to take a close look at the decisions you’re making this year. Are they best for your team or are you looking for what’s best for you personally?
As we enter the New Year I want to kick things off by taking a cold, hard look at ethics and how they apply in the workplace. Most managers believe they are ethical and, consciously, they may be. The problem is that everyone has a habit or bias that can be viewed as slightly unethical, whether they realize it or not.
Most of us have some sort of implicit bias, whether we recognize it or not. What is an implicit bias? It is one that, despite you not saying it outright, shows in the way you act. There are a few organisations that have tested managers and individuals to uncover some of their implicit biases, including Harvard and Tolerance.org. Here are a few examples of information about biases they uncovered:
What does this mean? Let’s say, for example, you claim not to be biased towards men. You have two similar resumes on your desk and you have interviewed both candidates – one male and one female. They are both highly qualified and it’s a very difficult decision to make but we’ll say for the purpose of this example that there may be one or two areas in which the female candidate might make a better fit. You claim to be reviewing their applications from an objective standpoint but your implicit bias towards men allows you to justify hiring the male candidate instead. You literally dig for a reason not to hire the female candidate and you may not even realize why.
Being biased can be costly. You can lose great candidates or team members and possibly even be accused of bias and become the victim of a discrimination lawsuit.
I urge you to step back and think about your management ethics and hiring practices. Are you biased? Do you even realize it? Are you treating your employees fairly? Think about it and let me know.
Ethics should be a way of life – not a conscious decision made on a case by case basis. As a newer manager you may have trouble determining what is standard procedure versus what procedures are ethical. If you exercise just a bit of self discipline you will find that every decision you make is the most ethical possible.
All eyes are on you. The ethics you display at work are going to have a direct impact on the way your employees work. Today’s troubling economy has resulted in hundreds of lost jobs, decreased incomes, and vanishing bonuses and raises.
Take a few moments to ask yourself a few questions in an effort to assess your own ethics in the workplace:
1. Do I have a specific set of beliefs? If so, what are they? Do you think about your beliefs as you work towards the goals you have set for yourself in life?
2. What are my goals? Do you have them written down so that you can remind yourself of them whenever necessary? Having goals will encourage you to work hard and make sure that everything we do is of the highest quality.
3. Do I need to enhance my skills? Are there skills that you need to develop in order to reach your ultimate goals? Do you need to take a few classes or ask for additional training? Are you committed to developing those skills so that you can move forward?
4. What are my standards? Do you have a set level of standards that directly reflects the ethics you have put in place for yourself? Would you prefer mediocrity or only the highest quality of work? Is there ever a time to make an exception?
5. Do I practice what I preach? Do you tell your employees to set standards, deliver high quality work, and treat each other respectfully and then give them a model to look at? Do you act the way you want others to act and treat them as you would be treated?
Take some time each evening to look back at your day and ask yourself what you could have done differently. Think about what you can do the next day to improve yourself.
Are you setting a positive example for your employees?
So you’re interviewing a potential new employee and you’ve gone down the list of standard resume questions. You know what their strengths and weaknesses are, you’ve reviewed the resume, and you may have even checked out their references. Here’s a question, though:
Did you evaluate their personal values?
This is difficult to do, but there are personal values that every individual has that are going to impact the way he views his work. Here are a few to consider: Learn More
The topic of politics in the workplace refers to one or two different subjects. The first is whether or not it is appropriate to discuss political beliefs (ie. the outside government) during work hours. The second refers to the political workings within your organisation.
Today, however, I want to focus on the first topic – the discussion of personal political viewpoints within the workplace. While this may seem like a relatively innocent topic of conversation amongst adults, especially given the time of year, politics is a sensitive subject that has the ability to make many people very uncomfortable.
It’s natural for people to watch debates, read political interviews, form opinions, and then want to have a discussion. But where do we draw the line between appropriate and inappropriate? How do you ensure that none of your employees become uncomfortable within the workplace during what may possibly be one of the most historic election years in history?
Some offices limit discussion of politics to lunch breaks and request that employees not place banners or signs relating to their political affiliations on their desks. Others simply let the discussions slide as regular workday gossip and only get involved if a debate becomes heated. I don’t recommend, ever, that you allow an employee to attempt any sort of political recruitment in the office, regardless of his affiliation.
Please sound off – how do you handle politics within your workplace. Do you think discussing politics displays poor ethics in the workplace? Is it something you encourage, discourage, or ignore?