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A former C suite executive said to me the other day: “I am not sure I know who the good guys and the bad guys are anymore?” In the current environment where we are faced with the daily realities of corruption, misappropriation of funds and the lack of accountability, it is always wise to reflect and check in on our own personal ethics and integrity.

As professionals in a world that is often quite grey and murky, as opposed to one which is clean cut between right and wrong, making the right choice can sometimes be somewhat of a dilemma. There is a fine line between what has become the accepted norm or behaviour and that, which is ethical. While there may be legal standards in place, these are often rule-based and not always enforced. Ethical conduct goes well beyond obeying a rule – it is balancing self- interest with the direct and indirect consequences of the behaviour of others.

What are some of the challenges that we might face?

  • Overconfidence in our own morality
  • Underestimating the effect of situational influences
  • Focusing on the immediate rather than long-term decision
  • Wanting to avoid conflict

Here are some guidelines that can assist in bringing us back on track:-

Knowledge of the law – do you know your company’s code of conduct; regulations of any professional body that you belong to; and any other applicable laws and rules in your environment?
Independence and objectivity – Do you maintain your independence and objectivity and refuse to accept gifts, benefits, or compensation that may compromise this or cause a conflict of interest?
Misrepresentation – do you knowingly make misrepresentations relating to recommendations, actions or professional activities?
Loyalty, prudence and care – Do you place other’s interests before your own?
Preservation of confidentiality – Are you known as a trusted confidant when confidential information is shared
Communication – Do you distinguish between fact and opinion? Do you disclose your limitations and do you acknowledge and discuss any risks?
Check all your facts – Are you certain of your facts and do you document these?

If you have answered no, or are unsure of your answers to any of the above questions, you need to take appropriate action to get back on track.

In these uncertain times it is worth remembering the following quote:
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett