Live to your ethics. Not the ethics of those around you.

I I am reminded of my grandfather’s rule. He reminded me of this all the time. Well actually this one and another rule. The first one was what you say to a person and what you say about a person have to be the same. The other was look before you leap. But that first one is one that sticks with me. It is as much about the ethics of a person that talks about you without you being there, as anything.

Years ago I had a boss that did that. Talked about people behind their backs. Everyone loved the guy because he was a golden boy. But he was truly mean in what he said. He belittled people when they weren’t in the room, but to their face he would praise them. He was also extremely willing to listen to rumors about people, without verifying the source and the intent of the source. Add to that political ambition and the person was more dangerous than people realized.

So I got away as quickly as I could. Not fast enough but I did get away.

That got me thinking this morning about the concept of ethics in the workplace. Ultimately I have to be happy with myself. If I am happy with where I am, then everything else doesn’t matter. I used to let the ethics of others impact me. But I’ve up on that.

Be true to yourself. Be true to what you say about others.

The reason, today, is not to point out the horrible boss I had. It is that I let that bother me for several years. I let that person take up residence in my head, without paying rent. So with a little spring cleaning I am focused on the positive. Instead today it is to honor my grandfather’s rule. If you say something about someone, you have to say it to them as well.

So, that is hard to live by. Frankly there are times in life when saying what you mean and saying exactly what you are thinking just isn’t a good idea. People call them white lies or lies meant to help the person feel better. You don’t tell someone “you look ill” it just isn’t right. You go for the politer, “hey, are you ok?” If they choose at that point to tell you what is going on, then honor that connection and communication with honest feedback.

But they tell you something about someone else, you have to ask them “have you said that to them, or have you asked them directly?” I told my old boss many years ago that he was listening to rumors without any basis. He didn’t care then, but I told him. I was honest with him. He wasn’t honest with me, but that isn’t my problem.

In the end you only have to live with what you do, and how you handle what happens. It is not how far you fall but how high you bounce.


Say what you mean, say it to the person and mean what you say.