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John P. Reiling, PMP:: Business Ethics: Do the right thing…but keep your sense of humor!

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Ethics is pretty simple in theory: “Do the right thing.” But as is often the case, the devil is in the details. It’s not always easy to “implement”. Here is some food for thought on the serious subject of business ethics…with a light, humorous twist.

Peter Drucker said,

“…there is no such thing as ‘business ethics’. There is only ethics.”

I will add to that I think ethics is a life long journey, and we encounter it at every turn…so we are never ‘done’ when it comes to ethics.

Here’s another of my favorites when it comes to ethics:

Golfers Bobby Jones, in the 1925 U.S. Open, and Tom Kite, in the 1978 Hall of Fame classic at Pinehurst, insisted on penalizing themselves a stroke when they noticed a slight movement of their ball due to their own brush of the nearby turf with their club. Both said, “There’s only one way to play the game.” They both lost their event solely because of that extra stroke…but they were able to live with themselves.

Yes, I think ethics is a long term commitment, and more of an ‘absolute’ thing, as expressed by the golfers above. It is something we live by, and something that, in a sense, grows with us…or can sink us…as we live life.

Here’s one more story – it’s well worth the read! – that delivers a light and humorous look at the serious subject of ethics:

A mother was invited to dinner at her son Brian’s apartment. During the course of the meal, Brian’s mother couldn’t help but notice how beautiful Brian’s roommate, Jennifer, was.

Brian’s mom had long suspected a relationship between Brian and Jennifer. Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between them than met the eye.

Reading his Mom’s thoughts, Brian volunteered, “I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you Jennifer and I are just roommates.”

About a week later, Jennifer came to Brian, saying, “Ever since your mother came to dinner, I’ve been unable to find the beautiful silver gravy ladle. You don’t suppose she took it, do you?”

“Well, I doubt it,” Brian said, “but I’ll send her an email just to be sure.”

So he wrote: “Dear Mom: I’m not saying that you ‘did’ take the gravy ladle from the house, and I’m not saying that you ‘did not’ take the gravy ladle. But the fact remains that one has been missing ever since you were here for dinner. Love, Brian.”

Several days later, Brian received an e-mail back from his mother: “Dear Son: I’m not saying that you ‘do’ sleep with Jennifer, and I’m not saying that you ‘do not’ sleep with Jennifer. But the fact remains that if Jennifer had been sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the ladle by now. Love, Mom.”


John Reiling, PMP

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1 comment to John P. Reiling, PMP:: Business Ethics: Do the right thing…but keep your sense of humor!

  • Ethics is concerned with “doing the right thing” in terms of morals, fairness, respect, caring, sharing, no false promises, no lying, cheating, stealing, or unreasonable demands on employees and others, etc. In addition, business ethics calls for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and addressing social problems such as poverty, crime, environmental protection, equal rights, public health and improving education. We need a practical approach rather than a philosophical one, with “leadership by example.”

    Business decisions often concern complicated situations which are neither totally ethical nor totally unethical. Therefore, it is often difficult to “do the right thing,” contrary to what many case studies will have you believe!

    Leaders have to deal with potential conflicts of interest, wrongful use of resources, mismanagement of contracts, false promises and exaggerated demands on resources, which include personnel. Is it the seller’s duty to disclose all material facts regarding the product/ service in question or is it the buyer’s responsibility to find out the pros and cons of what he or she is getting into? Should the seller answer each question exactly as it was asked, and ignore some pertinent information? Or should he or she merely address the spirit of the question? Is the buyer responsible for due diligence? This is a gray area.

    Maxwell Pinto, Business Consultant and Author.