Ethics@Work

June 30, 2013

Ted Williams was one of the greatest baseball players. Towards the later part of his career, he suffered a pinched nerve in his neck. His performance dipped considerably that year. He was the highest paid player in sports that year.  The following year, when he was offered contract at the same level of salary, he declined. He said he wanted what he deserved, and cut his salary by a large amount.

What a different world it would be if everyone demonstrated this level of integrity?

Our work is a testing ground for our integrity. Rules of work ethics are often well-written but seldom followed. Organizations have set up systems to monitor if employees spend the required amount of time at work but they often fail to capture if employees use their working time properly, in the interest of the work or the organization. While these issues are critical, there are other equally important issues related to work ethics. We all need to ask ourselves:

  1. Do colleagues find us trustworthy?
  2. Are we transparent in our dealings?
  3. Do we try to find and present the truth?

Some people do not present the full picture and share only part of the story in the decision making process. They take advantage of the situations when boss is too busy to go into the details or does not want to do so. Some work less for their own success but more to fail others. Views are challenged not on their merit but on personal relationships. What pains most is to notice situations in which people kill a good idea just because it comes from a person whom they don’t like or want him or her to fail. Some push aggressively for their petty issues sacrificing the larger interest of the organization or people they are meant to serve.

What should one do in such situations? Should one change and be like others, should one confront them upfront and expose them. None of these may work always. All that is important is to hold on to your own values and ethics. It is important to keep the larger goal in mind and work towards that, patiently and persistently against all odds.  The great Indian Mahatma Gandhi sums it well, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

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