What sort of motto or guideline helps you work ethically every day?
Administrative professionals work in a reactive frame of mind most of the day, says Nan DeMars, author of You Want Me to Do What? “When someone says ‘jump, please,’ our job description specifies our prompt and attentive response,” she says.
“Basically, we have to react according to our instincts and trust our internal gyroscope.” DeMars recommends using this fast compass:
1. Take care of yourself. Protect yourself from harm, legal action or financial disaster.
2. Take care of your company. “If something affects your company or your ability to do your job, you must speak up and attempt to resolve the dilemma.”
3. Take care of your supervisor. “If he or she is part of an ethical problem,” says DeMars, “do not leap to the conclusion that he or she is the enemy.”
Unfortunately, life today isn’t as simple as the old westerns, where good guys wore white, bad guys wore black and the right thing to do was as plan as John Wayne’s swagger.
In the real world, ethical issues are murkier – not black and white so much as gray. That’s what makes The Ethical Employee so valuable. This exclusive Special Report gives you an ethical adviser to turn to whenever you face a painful decision. Learn more about this valuable report.
When Keysha Cooper, a senior mortgage underwriter at Washington Mutual, was asked to approve loans for people who didn’t qualify, she used her internal compass. She refused and was scolded.
This was during the late, great mortgage boom, before the entire industry crashed.
Cooper was even offered bribes to approve loans, she says.
Eventually, she was put on a 30-day probation for spotting and rejecting loans that people wouldn’t have been able to pay back. Finally, she was laid off.
She doesn’t regret the outcome, though. If anything, she regrets that she couldn’t use her ethical compass more often.
“I loved underwriting because it’s about being able to put a person in their dream home,” she says. “But messing these borrowers around was wrong.”
— Adapted from “Was There a Loan It Didn’t Like?” Gretchen Morgenson, The New York Times.
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Take this quiz to see if you're on ethical thin ice:
Anytime you face an ethical dilemma, ask yourself: "If I go through with this, would I mind seeing it reported in tomorrow's news?"
If you answer "I'd be fine with it," go ahead.
If you're not sure, ask yourself:
- "Would this decision mesh well with the organization's mission, vision and core values?"
- "Would it be good for the customer?"
- "Would it be good for the organization?"
- "Would it be good for me?"
If you answer "Yes" to all four, do it. If you answer "No" or "Maybe" to any, ask your mentors, trusted advisers or friends (never co-workers, peers or professional colleagues) what they would do.
Let the nation’s leading business-ethics specialists help you make the smart choice in dozens of sticky ethical dilemmas:
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