The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
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!
Not you personally, but you as an organisation. Do they respect you; do they love their jobs? Or do they go home at night and complain about their days and put down the company when they speak to their friends?
There are three main concerns you have when it comes to your employees and they way they regard your organisation:
1. The disgruntled employee. An unhappy person is likely to tell more people about his bad experiences than his happy ones. You’ve likely heard this concept in terms of sales, but it applies to employee management as well. Are you sure your team members are happy with their jobs?
2. Conflicts of interest. It’s not unusual for an employee to have a second job in order to support his hobbies or pay his bills, but you will have problems if that second job is within the same industry or with a competitor. You risk having your company secrets disclosed to others or possibly even having your team members steal clients.
3. General dishonesty. Are your employees coming to work on time and, if not, are they filling out their time cards accordingly? Are they making personal, long-distance telephone calls on company time? Are they going home with office supplies tucked into their purses or brief cases?
It’s usually easy to tell if an employee is unhappy, and most workers are honest more often than not. Are you prepared, however, to deal with the conflicts and issues created by those who simply can’t help themselves?
Having an employee publicly degrade your business can be difficult to deal with. Do your best to communicate with your employees regularly, staying abreast of the changes in their lives and assessing whether or not they’re happy in their work. If not, you may be able to make changes; but knowing is half the battle.
The other day we approached the idea of ethics in the workplace, breaking the concept down into three main categories. Today I’d like to take a look at how you, or your organisation, treat your employees.
When you consider whether or not you are treating employees in an ethical manner, you have to take a look at your main managerial roles. They are to hire and/or fire employees, make sure they are given fair wages and safe working conditions, to protect their rights to privacy, and to treat them with respect.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
What happens when you hire an employee with a bad attitude or with a different set of religious values that make you or other employees uncomfortable? Can you fire him? Most people might agree that if an employee doesn’t “fit in” with the work group, he or she will not be successful. The problem is in the fact that whether or not you all get along with each other has nothing to do with whether or not your employee is doing his job effectively. What if that same employee was the best research assistant in the entire department, working at twice the rate of your other employees? Is it fair to discriminate against him just because he has follows a different religious path or has a surly attitude?
Another example of poor ethics is displayed when one demographic group is paid less for the same job as another. Women and immigrants, for example, may find they are making much less than men in the exact same roles with the exact same job duties. In some countries, the difference in pay ranges from anywhere from an astounding 25 to 50 percent.
What if, as a manager, your employee discloses some information about his medical history or personal life? He may need to give you this information so that you can work with him on a schedule or work load change, but should the information go any further than your office? In most cases it should not, but in many instances that information makes it to the water cooler, where mangers swap stories about their employees. One person vows the next person to secrecy, and so on – until the entire office knows someone else’s personal information. Not only was the sharing of information unethical, but it was a blatant breach of privacy.
Neither of these situations is fair to the employees who are being judged. If your employees feel as though they can’t trust their manager or company, they’ll begin to develop an attitude of discontent. No one wants to work in an unethical environment.
Make sure that proper ethics courses are included in your new hire and management training programs. Acting properly will save you and your company a lot of time and aggravation.
We’re going to spend a bit of time this week discussing ethics in the workplace. As a manager, the ethics you portray, or the way you behave, has a direct impact on the reputation of your company and your ability to build a team.
There are three main things you need to keep in mind when it comes to ethics and the way they impact the workplace:
1. How does the company treat its employees?
2. How do the employees treat the company?
3. How do the company and its employees treat the rest of the world?
As a manager, you represent the company. The actions and displays of morality you personally make are going to play a significant role in the way the company is perceived by both other employees and the outside world.
Over then coming days we’ll take a closer look at different facets of managerial ethics. Hopefully you’ll be able to identify changes you need to make in your workplace before they ruin your business or team.
Let me know if you have any current ethics concerns within your workplace. Leave a note in the comments or click the box on your right to ask me a question. We’ll do our best to help.