Ethics or mismanagement: What would you choose?

 05 Jun 2016 - 2:35

Ethics or mismanagement: What would you choose?

Sharoq Almalki

 

Very few people live their lives with the overriding desire to achieve personal wealth and success, at the expense of everybody and everything around them.
Over time, however, most of us face moral and ethical dilemmas at work.
The higher you go  up the corporate ladder, the more frequent these will happen, and the more difficult decisions will be. A lot of time, we may not know we are making unethical decisions due to either our naivety, or — if we are honest with ourselves — a case of pretending not to know or burying our heads in the sand.
What is the answer? Is it black and white? When pressure becomes unbearable, what should we do?
Dig around on any corporate website or brochure and you’ll find a passage waxing lyrical on the lofty moral and ethical values the organisation lives by. In truth, a business cannot be ethical. It is the people in that business, particularly those creating the strategic framework and implementing policies and procedures that hang on the framework, who determine whether it behaves ethically or not. It is, therefore, management at all levels i.e. those who are making decisions that influence what is done and how it is done, to take responsibility.
In reality it is them — you — who are accountable for the manner in which the organisation operates and the effect it has on its employees, customers, stakeholders, the environment and the world outside the company walls.
Mismanagement, especially in terms of ethical decisions, ranges from the dramatic events that brought the world’s economy to its knees almost a decade ago to the more mundane decisions that happen daily in almost every company and are either not noticed, ignored or swept under the carpet.
No matter how whiter than white we claim to be, we have all made decisions that — with 20:20 clarity of hindsight — were questionable at best, and downright unethical at worst. There may be occasions when you are asked to do something by your manager that you know:
• is not right for the company
• will unfairly put a colleague or fellow employee in a difficult or disadvantageous position
• is contrary to company policy or procedure
• is illegal
These are usually easier to spot, if not dealt with, but there are more subtle ways we find ourselves faced with — choice of making unethical decisions, for example, when a senior executive decides to award a project to his relative or friend.
A common scenario a lot of managers face is when recruiting their teams. Many managers might be forced to accept resumes not based on qualifications but rather a referral from the senior executive, based on friendship or family relation.
Are you doing the right thing for the company by opting for unqualified candidates you know will not support the business? Are you making a decision based on the targets you know you will be judged by? Are you making an ethical decision? Suddenly, it isn’t as black and white.
“I was simply following orders” has disturbing and profound historical connotations, but is far too easy a defence to hide behind. There comes a time when we have to draw the line and say “No, this isn’t right”.
The situation may be a case of your moral judgement against that of your superior, or maybe that you are forced to make a decision on behalf of the business against the senior executive. That, of course, is a whole new scenario.
Do you do the right thing for the company or stay loyal to the senior executive? Where does the buck stop when it comes to the ethical responsibility of the company?
It should stop at the top, but if that is not happening, are you capable, willing or brave enough to take on that burden? Even if it may be (for the short term at least) detrimental to your career?
At the end of the day, regardless of your ambitions, politics or religion, you are the person who has to look at yourself in the mirror every day. If you don’t want to be repulsed by what you see; if you want to be able to sleep at night, and be able to look back in years to come with a clear conscience and heart and say “I did it the right way”, I think you already know the answer. This applies any time, every time and all the time.
The bigger question for all organisations is: If you have a clear mismanagement scenario and poor-performing executive, how long does it take you to pull the trigger?

Sharoq Almalki is a employee engagement expert, author and public speaker. ([email protected]).