What in the end does ethics mean?

My sons and I often on our walks discuss ethics. Not the morality of or the legality of ethics but simply the application of ethics. I find myself often pondering the impact of ethics on my life, technology and my family. I once heard many years ago the line that I have tried to live by since I first heard it. Do the right thing and the money will follow.

Over those many and ensuing years I have tried to live by that. It isn’t easy because you run into people that don’t believe in ethics. Well that isn’t fair, its more that their ethics compass points to a few degrees different to the north of ethics. Those few degrees can cause all sorts of pain.  If you poison the well make sure you end up removing the poison later.

I talked about bad managers in a recent post that I have had the misfortune of having for a time in my career. Interesting thing is that two of the worst never pinged me to ask if in fact they were bad. One derailed my career twice in a period of 5 years. I also know that my personal ethics would forgive him, once I got a simple “sorry.”

That is the interesting problem. It is fine to wander through life oblivious to the impact you have. But when someone makes you successful, and you don’t acknowledge that in the end you have an ethics problem. Ethics is the way, in as much as it can be, we treat people. You hear all the time (PETA – ethical treatment of animals) about ethics.

  • If you say something about a person make sure the person you are speaking to, also goes to that person you are speaking of for the other side.
  • Never act on rumors. Better yet just never believe rumors. If it isn’t a fact, or can’t be proven don’t believe it.
  • Do the right thing. If you say you are going to do something and for whatever reason you cannot, acknowledge that publically.

When you cause someone else pain, own it. You don’t have to apologize for what had to happen, but you have to apologize for the pain you caused that person. It is the right thing to do. Those three simple bullets are really easy to follow. The first one, don’t triangulate is actually a point of honor. If you speak ill of someone, without telling the person you are speaking to that there are two sides, shame on you. Acting on rumors in the end does nobody any good. Rumors are often politics. If you act on political information the only person that loses ethically is you. Oh yeah and shame on you. Finally when you say something in a team setting make sure the follow-up is public. If you never follow-up understand that it is your credibility that is lost.

Act as though the other person is you. Yes people need to be managed. Yes People need to be lead. If you aren’t good at one, acknowledge that and work on it. The same is true of leadership although it is a little harder to work on. If you leave a wake remember those are human beings. Stop, apologize and help them right the boat you capsized. It’s the right thing to do.


Ethical Wanderer…