The gray territory of business ethics: a reflection

In the business world, certain everyday situations can be gray, or unclear, in terms of what can be considered “unethical”. For instance, I have often wondered how easy it could be to fall into the trap of being non-compliant or violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. If one of our vendors sends us a packet of goodies, are we, therefore, obligated to do something in return? Is it wrong to take the small gift they’ve offered? What about “borrowing” office supplies for personal use? These are just a few minor examples of some scenarios that can be categorized as “gray” when it comes to business ethics.

I had the recent opportunity to gain some clarity around these little office dilemmas, thanks to a podcast we hosted which focused on business ethics. It was my privilege to interview a gentleman who is an expert on the topic of ethics. Mr. Richard Bistrong found himself at the center of a major corruption case in which he was sentenced to prison. While this was a very frightening situation for Mr. Bistrong, the phrase ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ has proven to be true. Richard has since built a platform to inspire, educate and build awareness around ethical conduct and behavior in the workplace.

The biggest take away I had from this 27-minute conversation with Richard Bistrong is communication. If you’re unsure, or something doesn’t feel right – your instincts are probably right.

Individuals should talk about situations/issues/dilemmas with someone to hold each other accountable for actions and to keep each other in check. Doing so will largely decrease the possibility of crossing the line of being unethical.