The news goes from bad to worse. Economic bailouts, top management invested and often charged with illegal business activities. Many organizations on the verge of bankruptcy are in this condition because of greed and mismanagement. The issue of ethics in the workplace should be our top concern.
What is the difference between business ethics and business etiquette? According to the dictionary, ethics are the rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or members of a profession. Etiquette refers to forms of conduct prescribed in polite society. They sound very much alike and not terribly complicated, don’t they? One has to do with doing the right thing. The other has to do with doing things right. They should go hand in hand.
However, it is possible to have all the polish that business etiquette affords without the moral conduct that accompanies a code of ethics. Most of the high profile corporate criminals we read about in the print or see on television have good manners in the sense that they know which fork to use, what clothes to wear, the importance of a firm handshake, the correct way to introduce business associates and the other proprieties.
Business etiquette is how we act around other people—it’s public behavior. Business ethics is how we act when nobody is looking—it’s private behavior. Unethical acts can be as simple as walking off with the new magazine from the waiting room, taking home extra ink cartridges, slipping a few personal items into an expense report or calling in sick when planning a day at the beach. These seemingly inconsequential acts are as unethical and dishonest as embezzlement and insider trading.
When faced with a dilemma over right and wrong behavior in the workplace, consider these questions.
- Does the activity violate civil law or company policy?
- Will it hurt others, either short term or long term?
- How would you feel if someone else knew?
Corby O’Connor, a New Jersey-based expert on business etiquette and protocol, says, “Any executive can be polished. It takes an extraordinary executive to be ethical as well.”
Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.
Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions. Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.
Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.