By Alexis Bonari
[Editor's note: Yes, this is fairly elementary—but it's nice to be reminded of the basics once in a while. If this topic interests you and you want more depth, I recommend Stephen M.R. Covey's Speed of Trust as well as my own Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet (co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson).
In our ultra-competitive business world, it is easy to excuse treading on the wrong side of the line that separates necessary competition from sleazy behavior. The younger generation—those in their teens and twenties—have been bombarded with the idea that honor and ethics are relative terms. In other words, if everyone else appears to be cheating the system, it’s “ok” for me to do the same.
Do ethical people get left in the dust?
So, what really happens to businessmen and women who try to play by the rules of good business ethics? Do they get pushed aside by their more competitive, meaner contemporaries? The answer would appear to be “no”.
There’s a reason for everything.
Everything has a source, an origin. Even if we believe that ethics are relative, they still must come from somewhere. Our modern business ethics are founded on philosophical principals that date back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Humankind has continually refined these rules of conduct so that people can interact with each other in a positive, non-violent manner. Therefore, there is a practical, utilitarian purpose behind agreeing to a code of ethics.
It’s all about trust.
Essentially, we work together best when we feel that we can trust each other. Doing business is the ultimate form of working together. If an individual has questionable dealings in their past, it is highly likely that they will suffer some sort of backlash for it, be that publicly or privately. Take the executives at Enron as an example. They employed very aggressive, hyper-competitive strategies for amassing wealth. When investors felt they could be trusted, they were given huge sums of money. As their underhanded dealings came to light, they became the poster-children for unethical business practices and were reviled by a nation.
Although unethical business practices might result in short-term success, this rarely translates into stable business relationships in the long run. In this sense, those who choose to take a strong ethical stance generally come out ahead in the end.
Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching various online college degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.