Tag Archives: business ethics

What Would Happen to Our Legacies?

July 18, 2019 by

How good would others consider us to be if our private thoughts and conversations were made public?

Take the article about then-presidential-candidate Jimmy Carter in Playboy that rocked the world in 1976. In the article, he confessed, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”

This confession raised the question of Carter’s goodness because if he really was faithful to his wife, wouldn’t he have an eye only for Rosalynn, even in his mind?

Fast forward to the invention of the internet. We now have the ability to look up answers to questions that are so personal that we wouldn’t even ask our friends. In addition, we use email to forward jokes to others that we otherwise would have told face-to-face with no trail left behind. Of course, we have tried to be careful. Regarding our emails, like mom said, “Anything we write down can become public.” But late at night, when tapping out a note, there have been times many of us have gone over the line in a way that would be offensive to someone. When we spend time online, it is often like thinking to ourselves or having a quiet, private conversation behind closed doors.

But the internet is not private. Website searches and email jokes do have trails. Those searches we did and jokes we told 10-20 years ago can become available to the public if the internet companies want to share them or people hack them. We are finding that we gave up our privacy long ago without really knowing the extent of what that meant.

And when others learn about our private website searches and email jokes, even if we have built good organizations or given back to the community through volunteerism and philanthropy, will our goodness and legacies be called into question like former President Carter’s?

We all know the answer is “yes.” And because of this, every 55-year-old or older I know has done a mental rundown of their internet searches and saved emails to consider the possibility that, like an unexpected flood, their online privacy may be breached.

Perhaps it will not flood, so to speak. Just as floods affect some people, others are not impacted. We might be lucky, and our legacies will remain intact. Or maybe our transgressions are so insignificant that, if made public, people will move on thinking they are just not juicy enough. And if this last point is the case, then the real idea that Carter was trying to make in his 1976 interview (if you read the whole thing) could ring true.

Let’s not think we are better than the other person because our online indiscretions are small, and our legacies remain intact. The relative degree of offenses doesn’t make us better than the next person. We are all fundamentally the same. We are all fallible. Our best legacies are found in how we treat each other as fellow human beings, and in the fact that we judge less and forgive more.

Beverly Kracher

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton University.

New Business and Marketing Ethics

January 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Owners of new businesses have myriad ethical problems similar to the problems in mature businesses. The difference is that new business owners don’t have years of experience to help them more easily make sound decisions. But practice and a good process can lead to long term, honorable business growth. Case in point:

Dear Ethics Adviser,

I’m passionate about making life easier for folks. I’ve started a concierge service I sell to businesses that they, in turn, provide to their employees. I’ve been able to get a few accounts, but I’m not growing as fast as I’d like. Part of my problem is not knowing how to price my service. I think I’m overcharging. It’s not as if I can ask my competitors what they charge.

A colleague of mine recommended a strategy. He said to ask a friend who does procurement at a local firm to put out a request for proposals (RFP) for concierge service. The friend wouldn’t really want the service, mind you, but would put out the RPF simply to collect bids from companies and then tell me what they charge. This way, I get the best information about the market and won’t overprice my service. Would you recommend this strategy?

Dear Passionate,

While the strategy is practical and can yield fast results, it is not ethical and should not be used. Ethical decision making requires that you think far, wide, and high about your options.

In this case, when you think far, about consequences for all, you notice that competitors would anticipate that they could get business from their work. They would use valuable time completing your fake RFP that they could instead use on live prospects. You are creating harm. Would you want someone to do this to you?

When you think wide, you recognize all of the duties and obligations you have to different people. A fundamental duty is to try to tell the truth. In this case, you are being deceptive in order to make life easier for yourself. This is wrong.

When you think high, you ask yourself, “What kind of person do I want to be? Would my mom be proud if she knew about my action?” The moms that teach us to be strong and true would not approve of this way of finding pricing information. It’s a short cut, and not noble.

So when you stop to think far, wide, and high, you see that this pricing strategy is wrong.

What can you do instead, Passionate?

Rather than seek a fast solution, get your mind around the fact that business wisdom comes from the school of hard knocks and it can’t be shortchanged. Experiment; try one solution, then another; succeed sometimes; fail others. Engage with business leaders you truly admire to get advice. Keep your values front of mind, and profit has a great chance of following.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton University.

This column was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.