Being Ethical in a not so ethical world
Some times in life being ethical is easy, however, there are many times when making the ethical choice can be a struggle. At Boston City Campus & Business College, we try and build ethical behaviour into each of our academic modules. Not only do we wish to teach and lead by example, but also to imbue this ethical behaviour in the working and home lives of our learners. Says Ian Becker, “ethical behaviour can be as big as walking away from a one hundred million rand deal when you realise that the ease with which you will be making money is just too good to be true – in which case it is! Or it can be as small as realising you’ve paid for one Coke, but been given two – and then returning the extra.”
Ian Becker, IT professional and member of the Board of SABPP (South African Board of Personnel Practitioners) recently gave a talk on ethics, and included the following questions to ask yourself. (Taken from theorist Rhoda Hess). Rhoda Hess asks a series of questions relating to achieving goals, and we can all relate these to our daily tasks – whether it be in business, at school or at varsity. And most definitely in our home lives! What do you want from ethics? How does it affect our lives if we conduct ourselves with ethical behaviour, or if we choose not to?
From a Boston perspective – we believe that we must provide a quality education that is accredited, provide this education on time and that it should have value in the workplace. And from a student perspective? Well, oftentimes someone is paying for the learner. In this case, it would be ethical to make sure you work hard, attend campus every day, complete assignments on time, and respect all other students and teachers. In order to be ethical, we tend to apply our own values and in some instances, these may be in conflict with societies accepted norms. Nikki Bush, the motivational speaker, and parenting expert uses the mantra: One Mind, One Body, One Reputation. Especially in this age of digital media – it is very difficult to hide from behaviour or to rectify bad behaviour. The choices you make every day in your interactions with others affect your reputation.
- What is holding you back from being ethical? Are you trying to impress someone with negative behaviour? “Trust me”, says Becker” Positive behaviour creates many more opportunities for you”.
- What is it costing you to continue holding back? Your sense of personal ethics must guide you in determining what being ethical costs you. It may cost you one opportunity – but turn it down if it does not feel right! Better opportunities will follow. Compromising on your ethics is a slippery slope. The “Everyone does it” mentality is easy, for one small compromise leading to more and more compromises.
- How do you want to change your mind’s programming on ethics? If you have stepped onto the slippery slope, it is never too late to get back into a mindset of completely ethical behaviour.
- What new habits can you put in place to fortify your new ethical mindset? Make payments on time. Pitch up for interviews. If the teller pays you too much change – tell them and give it back. You will not believe how good it feels –better than the R10 you may have pocketed. Each time you apply a new positive behaviour it becomes easier.
- What is the most meaningful action you could take now? Make a decision and write it on post-it notes – put it on your computer screen!
We must remember that there is a difference between being ethical and being compliant. While it is always important to listen to teachers, parents, and bosses, we need to also take into account our own moral values. In that way, you will build your own very ethical reputation. And this is something that precedes you in every interaction.