Practical Wisdom

One of the pleasures of interacting with ASCFG members is getting to know people who make their living in the entrepreneurial endeavor of growing flowers. Working close to the land is very different than being an employee in the corporate world or in a small company. It’s fascinating to gain insight on what it means to produce what you sell. For me, farm visits rouse feelings of admiration and wonder about how much energy, common sense and tenacity it takes to create a business that allows you to live what you believe. Contemplating the courage it takes to stay true to your values and belief system got me thinking about ethics and what defines ethical behavior. Digging through files, I found notes from some class taken at a conference several years ago discussing the ethics of business. I don’t recall the name of the convention nor the name of the presenter, but the questions on an ethics quiz the speaker distributed got me thinking about how we describe and quantify ethical behavior.

No doubt, ethics are an important part of business life, but it’s not easy to agree on a uniform definition or guidelines of applying ethical principles in the day-to-day work world. Basically, ethics means translating life-guiding values such as truth, honesty, and respect for others into daily behaviors and concrete actions. Although there may not be one specific definition of ethical behavior, most people recognize it when they see it in action.

Here is the ethics quiz. Score your responses using 2, 1 or 0.  If you strongly exhibit the trait – 2; if you moderately exhibit – 1, and
if you don’t exhibit the trait at all – 0.  According to the author, the closer your score is to 60, the more you exhibit behaviors that the people around you are likely to consider ethical. More important than your score, perhaps, is that considering these questions gives insights to traits that foster strong workplace relationships.

1.  (2, 1, 0)    I’m knowledgeable about the needs of my employees or clients.
2.  (2, 1, 0)    I’m loyal to my customers, clients, or employer even when my actions may cause me short-term financial losses.
3.  (2, 1, 0)    When I hear negative comments that might affect the organization, I’m quick to let my superiors or peers know.
4.  (2, 1, 0)    I maintain the privacy of confidential and proprietary information.
5.  (2, 1, 0)    I demonstrate respect for people who have different backgrounds than my own.
6.  (2, 1, 0)    I treat subordinates and peers equally, and am careful not to show personal favoritism.
7.  (2, 1, 0)    I ask others to perform only tasks consistent with high professional and personal standards.
8.  (2, 1, 0)    When in the company of people who speak ill of my organization, I defend my organization.
9.  (2, 1, 0)    When I can’t meet a request from a superior or customer, I’m candid about my limits.
10. (2, 1, 0)   When I notice waste, I report it and try to stop it.
11. (2, 1, 0)   I transmit only information I know to be accurate to other people.
12. (2, 1, 0)   When I make a mistake, I’m quick to apologize.
13. (2, 1, 0)   I accept legitimate authority even when I disagree with it.
14. (2, 1, 0)   While I am decisive in word and action, I watch out for the feelings of others.
15. (2, 1, 0)   When I suspect a problem with a product or service, I point it out to a client or customer rather than conceal it.
16. (2, 1, 0)   My comments about the competition are truthful and fair.
17. (2, 1, 0)   In my daily activities, I take care not to damage the earth’s environment.
18. (2, 1, 0)   When I’m praised or thanked for what I’ve done, I quickly give credit to others who helped.
19. (2, 1, 0)   I give honest answers to questions, even when the answers cast me in an unfavorable light.
20. (2, 1, 0)   I’m quick to share information that might help the people around me.
21. (2, 1, 0)   I avoid gossip.
22. (2, 1, 0)   If an employee or customer makes an error to my benefit, I’m quick to point it out.
24. (2, 1, 0)   I help colleagues who are in trouble, even if I have to spend scarce, valuable time doing so.
25. (2, 1, 0)   I’m careful not to distribute an unsafe product.
26. (2, 1, 0)   When solving business problems, I maintain personal standards that are higher than legal standards.
27. (2, 1, 0)   I refuse gifts or other goods of significant value from vendors or other business associates.
28. (2, 1, 0)   When I see a rule or procedure that doesn’t appear proper, I’m quick to report it to others before deliberately breaking it.
29. (2, 1, 0)   I give an honest day’s work for the salary or fees I receive.
30. (2, 1, 0)   I don’t try to gloss over bad news I must deliver to employees or customers.

Thinking over my answers to these questions compelled me see how others defined ethical behavior. A Google search offered many discussions and definitions, but one that caught my attention in terms of clarity and directness was from Aristotle. It was in a blog post by Brad W. Merrill (5/6/11) titled What is Ethical Behavior?

“Aristotle defined ethics as “practical wisdom”. Why practical? Because it involves an action (behavior) – both at the individual and societal/corporate level.  Aristotle… believed that ethics related to what should or should not be done with regard to the things are good or bad for an individual. He…said ‘we are not studying in order to know what virtue is, but to become good, for otherwise there would be no profit in it.’”

Here’s hoping we all strive to act as ethically as possible in our personal and professional lives.

Gay Smith

Technical Consulting Manager

Gay Smith is the Technical Consulting Manager for Chrysal USA. Contact her at [email protected]