What is business ethics? Well, I will give you the Angelia definition: Business ethics deals with the conduct of a person or a business that is rooted in an ethical or moral foundation. In short, it is those questionable things that are not always easily covered legally.
Learning business ethics or ethical practices has been ongoing for me, and I believe it will continue to be ongoing, because there is so much to learn. Also, business ethics lessons always come when a new situation arises, and there are always new situations.
I’ve decided to share a few business ethics tips I’ve learned over the years:
- If you have access to someone’s professional and personal information in the capacity of a contracted professional, then you don’t use those contacts to further your own cause or agenda. Their contacts are their property, and to use them is to steal them.
- Confidentiality is a no-brainer, whether you sign the agreement or not. It takes a pretty unethical person to divulge another person’s business strategy, information or intellectual property under the guise of “I didn’t sign an agreement.” Either you are trustworthy, or you are not trustworthy.
- My clients are my clients. My vendors are my vendors. If you have been contracted to work for my company, then you will not solicit my clients or vendors for your own purposes. That is stealing.
The above are three examples from my perspective as someone who hires people with the risk of them sharing my intellectual property or company trade secrets. Those are three violations that happen all of the time, and each example is about the character of an individual. The following two tips are based on my moral compass as a leader, business owner and person. These are two things I stand on:
- Product integrity is everything to me as a publisher. If my print or digital download or even website are not offering my advertisers and readers quality, then I should just stop now. I stand behind our quality not our perfection. Perfection is arbitrary, but quality is a standard that never changes. I owe product integrity to the people who support our business.
- I must create a work environment that is safe for all to enter. We are very customer service driven, but we are also driven to take care of those who make Hope for Women magazine happen. As a matter of personal integrity, no one is allowed to mistreat staffers, as I do not mistreat staffers and contractors.
Here are some documents you should always have on file: a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), a confidentiality agreement, a code of ethics document and a core values document that outlines your ethics foundation and principles. Legal Zoom and other sites have examples and templates for each, though the principles MUST be your own.
Why does your company need to have a code of ethics and/or conduct? It sets the tone of the business and protects your business. It also sets the tone and builds company morale. It will pre-warn people with bad intentions and reputations about your intolerance for bad behavior.