Orthodoxy Today | Chris Banescu | July 31, 2007
What happened to companies like Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, or even organizations like the Catholic Church where ethics collapsed and management behavior became criminal? Their leaders did not set out to break the law. So how did they end up disgraced, and some even behind bars?
Many of these problems can be traced to a failure of ethical decision-making. Ethics acts as a “fail-safe” mechanism.
People can start out with good intentions and correct principles and then incrementally twist them to suit their own interests. This is especially true in larger companies where it is easier to distance oneself from the “faceless” corporation. That’s why people who otherwise abide by high ethical standards chose to act contrary to those beliefs and leads to disastrous consequences for their organizations.
Most business executives want to run ethical companies. They believe the culture of their organization is expressed through their policies and employee handbooks. But it doesn’t really work that way. Instead, the culture of a company is defined by the conduct of its managers, officers, and executives. Employees pay much closer attention to what leaders do than what they say — and they emulate the behavior that leaders display.
In business, ethics is everyone’s business. If employees see executives and managers acting in an unethical manner, they feel justified behaving the same way. If management treats other employees, customers, or vendors poorly, don’t expect the employees to behave any differently.
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