Business Ethics = The Golden Rule

There is no such thing as business ethics – there’s only ethics. People try to use  one set of ethics for their professional life, another for their spiritual life, and still another at home with their family. That gets them into trouble. Ethics is ethics. If you desire to be ethical, you live it by one standard across the board.\

Based on John Maxwell’s book entitled “There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics – There’s Only One Rule for Making Decisions”, Educators, philosophers, theologians and lawyers have taken what really is a simple matter and made it very confusing. Living an ethical life may not always be easy, but it need not be complicated. If you are reading these words, I believe you possess the desire to live and work ethically. 

An ethical dilemma can be defined as an undesirable or unpleasant choice relating to a moral principle or practice.

Many CEO, employers, business owners believe that embracing ethics would limit their options, their opportunities, their very ability to succeed in business. It’s the old suspicion that good guys finish last. They agree with Harvard history professor Henry Adams, who stated, “Morality is a private and costly luxury.” Ironically, in today’s culture of high debt and me-first living, ethics may be the only luxury some people are choosing to live without.

Ethic Matters. There are really only two important points when it comes to ethics. The first is a standard to follow. The second is the will to follow it.

A version of the Golden Rule exists in just about every culture.

Christianity: Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he loves for his neighbour what he loves for himself.

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire law, all the rest is commentary.

Buddhism: Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty, do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you.

Confucianism: What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.

Bahai: And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself.

Jainism: A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.

Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria): One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.

The bottom line on ethics: I want to be ethical and I believe that it is possible to do what is right and succeed in business. Companies that are dedicated to doing the right thing, have a written commitment to social responsibility, and act on it consistently are more profitable than those who don’t.

Ethics + Competence is a winning equation. In contrast, people who continually attempt to test the edge of ethics inevitably go over that edge. Shortcuts never payoff in the long run.

It may be possible to fool someone for a season, but in the long haul, their deeds will catch up with them because the truth does come out. In short term, behaving ethically may look like a loss (just as one can temporarily appear to win by being without ethics.

The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker – travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces.

I believe, for an organization or company to expand and prosper, it must be built on foundations of a moral character, and this character is the principal element of its strength, and the only guarantee of its permanence and prosperity. However, that foundation cannot be built as a whole. It must be built beginning with each individual. And it must be done in the face of continuous pressure to perform at the expense of doing the right things.

Quotation from the book: “I believe you will be able to use one guideline to govern all your ethical decision making. It’s based on the Golden Rule.”