Be Ethically Strategic

Be strategic about ethics. It is rare that the ethics of an individual and the ethics of an organization agree completely. It is just as rare for the ethics of an individual and their co-workers agree perfectly. Being ethical does not mean being unwilling to compromise when the inevitable disagreements occur. If you are too rigid about your ethics, you are sure to limit your ability to influence the organization when it really matters. Ethical leaders compromise on small issues to build the personal capital needed to influence the big issues. You may disagree with others in your organization about whether an ad is deceptive. But if you are also concerned with a product safety issue, you might save your ethical capital for that fight. One thing that thwarts the success of ethical managers is being overly rigid about their ethics. It is worth compromising on the smaller issues in the interests of winning on the issues of significant ethical impact.

Avoid Ethics Traps

This post is part of series on ethics and success.

An ethics trap is a situation in which you are forced to choose between your ethics and an organizational goal. An example would be a bid situation in which the other bidders have inflated their experience, and your organization can make it to the next round by inflating its own experience. It is lie or lose – or so it seems. There are many ways to avoid such traps. For example, you document your real experience in a way that the other bidders can’t match. You can also message in your bid that others may be inflating their experience, e.g., by providing references across your claimed experience. You have to find a way to “spring” the ethics trap. A low ethics manager goes along with “market conditions” while a high ethics leader seeks to change them.

Trademark Your Ethics

This post is part of a series of posts on ethics and success.

If you want ethics to fuel your success, make ethics part of how you work. For example, if you are in a sales position, get to be known for providing customers with honest information. Make honesty a part of your sales edge. If you work on a technical team, be generous in giving others credit for what they accomplish. Just as we have confidence in companies with a reputation for honesty, people will have confidence in you if ethics is your work trademark. Will others try to take advantage of your ethics? Certainly. But your ethical trademark will help you push them back over time as others see their conduct for what it is.

Ethical Allies

Here is a second tip on making ethics a part of your success:

Find ethical allies. Even if you are in general ethical agreement with your employer, you will have varying degrees of ethical agreement with individual employees. Identify those with whom you have a high level of ethical agreement and make them your allies. If possible, include them among the individuals with whom you work closely. While there are many areas in which individuals may disagree, shared ethics makes agreement on other matters easier. The better you get to know your ethics cohorts, the better the chances that they will support your advancement. Your advancement is not at the expense of their ethics.