All of us have been involved in some sort of business, be it owning and operating an enterprise, studying at a particular college/training institute or working for a company (which is essentially a business owned by someone else). Since businesses and corporations, no matter how big or small, form such an important and integral part in our lives, it is only imperative of us to involve our own morality into consideration into the work place.

In this write up, the point of view discussed will be from the perspective of a business owner, which can be extrapolated to the employees. So, first of all, let us explore what happens when your business is an ethical one.

  • Ethics make you stand out of the crowd. If in the business world you are known for your strong moral values, shady characters are less likely to approach you. As such, your respect in the society will be higher and whatever customers you have, the number may be low or high, they will be loyal to your brand.
  • A business built up on unethical grounds may seem to be doing very well on the outside, but in reality, the end is always looming near. Any sort of sudden policy change by the government (read demonetization) is likely to throw things off track. More often than not, unethical = illegal, so there is a chance of legal repercussions too.
  • Elaborating on the second point, I personally have seen corner cutting contractors owning vehicles worth of ₹ 25 lakhs but never taking them out on the road because people might suspect. What’s the point of owning the vehicle then? To some extent, this applies to houses too. On the outside, the house is not even painted and the red bricks are visible but it is nothing short of a palace if you go inside it.
  • Even if you are a daily wage labourer, the fact that you are an ethically and morally right person means that people tend to trust you with their belongings. It only becomes easier for you to make it through because the good samaritans will help you in your hour of need.

Yet, it is not all sunshine in the world of business ethics. Sometimes, one is presented with situations in which being ethical doesn’t look to be the most obvious choice. A few arguments and examples against being ethical are presented below:

  • Ethics do not have visibility. People in the modern world are quite shallow. They value you for the money you have. While you should steer clear of such people, you lose many business opportunities you might have had with them. At the same time, appearance does matter, if your business looks all flashy and nice, people (read customers) will gravitate towards it in the short term.
  • Making an ethical choice adds to the already long list of decisions to be taken, be it a business or life in general. If you sit to think about every little thing whether it was ethical or not, it only eats up your precious time. In the modern day fast world, that is a huge no no.

An example, let us assume that you are the general manager of a factory with a hundred employees under you. For some reason, the past few months haven’t been generous and you are facing pressure from the head office to secure a contract or else the factory will be shut down and the workers laid off and you would be transferred to a different facility. At this time, a new tender opens up, securing which your factory will gain one year of guaranteed work, only catch is, you have got to pay the unethical guy person (I mean why should guys get all the blame) who has floated the tender a hefty sum of money under the table. As the manager, will you bribe the person and save a hundred people their jobs, or will you keep thumping your bloated ethical chest while livelihoods are lost and you move on to different ventures?

In a nutshell, being ethical is very important in the business world and in our day to day life alike but at the same time one should realize that nothing is black and white and everything has a moral grey area. It is a subjective matter and things should be analysed on case basis, even if it takes some time.

Let me know what you would have done in the factory scenario in the comments section below. Do you know of any other such scenarios where ethics are likely to be compromised? Let me know of that too.