Business ethics as a skill refers to one’s ability to make the right business decisions and abide by one’s own moral values or corporate standards, even if such decisions are not covered by the legal guidelines. Very simply, it means doing the ‘right’ thing even if it is not legally enforced.
The morality of a business is determined by the ability of the professionals running it to abide by some basic principles and let their moral standards guide them when they face controversial issues such as corporate social responsibility, bribery, and discrimination etc. Business ethics skills are, therefore, your ability to let your moral principles govern your actions and decision-making for the strategic and operational management of the business.
Why are business ethics important
It is true that having management teams with strong business ethics undermines the potential risk to organization’s culture. Instead, it enables employees at all levels to make quicker decision guided by their business ethics skills, increasing productivity as well as their morale.
However, the importance of business ethics reaches far beyond all this. Business ethics have a direct impact on the short term as well as long term profitability of any company because it helps in building up a reputation for the company. Based on this reputation, businesses and individuals determine whether or not your company is worth investing in. The significance of this reputation in the attraction and retention of talented employees is also paramount.
It is needless to say that lack of business ethics not only destroys the particular company in the long run, but also causes collateral damage in the surrounding community. The global financial crisis of 2008-09 is the best example where board of directors of some renowned companies lacked business ethics as skill and made business decisions such that they caused an economic meltdown.
How to improve business ethics as a skill
One of the most important aspects of long-term success of a firm, without any regard to its size, profitability, or industry, is business ethics. Therefore, you may find the following tips helpful in improving your business ethics skills:
- Read about it. Try to read at least one book every year, not only about the philosophy of ethics but also some good stories about how people dealt with various kinds of ethical issues. Such biographies and historical nonfictions will most likely be retained by you for life. Also, they will help you learn, from the experience of others, to make the most difficult judgment of what is right and what is not.
- Be a part of some peer group. Whether you prefer it within your industry or outside, find yourself a peer group where you can openly discuss ethical issues without the fear of being judged by others. Such peer groups also make available some valuable feedback by giving worthwhile insights into the perceptions, expectations, as well as the experiences of others.
- Become a role model through your actions. You must show your moral standards and honesty through your actions at all times. As a result, your coworkers and subordinates will look up to you, and try to adopt the same practices as yours. Instead of being appreciated or rewarded by your boss, being recognized as an inspiration for your coworkers will serve as a greater source of motivation for you to maintain that reputation.