Historically there have been many cases of corporate wrong doing, issues relating to the poor practices and behaviours of so called professionals in the world of business. This type of behaviour is not restricted to nationality, age or gender, but is rather an open club trolling for new members. There is a worry that many individuals will fall short of the ethical professional behaviour and practice desired.
As such, consideration is needed to help aid in the understanding of why individuals may seek to make unethical decisions, and possibly affect the way in which business operates. There are two basic assumptions about why we make unethical decisions:
- It is the easiest and quickest way to succeed
- The advantages outweigh the disadvantages
As a generalisation of the motivations for this type of behaviour, based upon the previous assumptions, the need for a quick profit holds to be a key indicator and prime stimulus. Add to this the ease in which unethical behaviour is adopted in many situations, and the self-rationalisation of equity (since others cheat so can I, also known as the Prisoner’s Dilemma), and these factors all conspire to create an environment for unethical behaviour. Furthermore, there appears to be little disadvantage if this type of behaviour is uncovered.
Let us consider the notion of ethics and what it means in basic terms. If we considered a generalised Westernised philosophy, ethics can be broadly categorised into three areas:
- Aristotelian Ethics (or Nicomachean Ethics) – holds that the virtues, such as justice, charity, and generosity, are dispositions to act in ways that benefit both the person possessing them and that person’s society
- Kantian Ethics – the concept of duty central to morality: humans are bound, from a knowledge of their duty as rational beings, to obey the categorical imperative to respect other rational beings
- Utilitarianism Ethics – the guiding principle of conduct should be the greatest happiness or benefit of the greatest number
If we interpret the three categories, for the purpose of this article, we can describe ethics as:
‘The guiding moral principles which individuals’ adherer to, governing behaviour and action relating to the way in which the individual conducts themselves’
Subsequently, the construct of ethical business behaviour, and furthermore that of social responsibility, can bring about greater sustained business benefits, including:
- Increasing the customer base due to enhanced reputation
- Improving employee loyalty and retention
- Improving the recruitment process for potential employees
- Increasing the potential investment pool
Working in professional fields are prestigious accolades, the time, effort, finance and commitment to attaining these goals should not be taken for granted, and we should strive to attain the highest levels of professional practice.
It is on this basis that the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the only chartered professional body in the UK who sets the standards for management and leadership excellence, has produced a Code of Conduct and Practice for its members for the undertaking of the professional management role. The areas covered are:
- Behaving in an open, honest and trustworthy manner
- Acting in the best interests of your organisation, customers, clients and/or partners
- Continually developing and maintaining professional knowledge and competence
- Creating a positive impact on society
- Respecting the people with whom you work
- Upholding the reputation of the profession and the Institute
We should not negate ethics; rather we should embrace a professional code of conduct, and be proud of what this says about us as professionals.