Not Having Standards or Ethics Can Hurt Your Business

Business Ethics


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Ethics are general principles that a person or individual uses to determine what is right or wrong in a situation. They are based on the values that the held by those involved.

When you are operating a business, it is very important that you not only define but also practice the ethics that you hold as being very important. You cannot assume that everyone has the same values and so, it is best to have these in written format. That way you can communicate them to others and also, if necessary, hold staff and contractors accountable.

Some businesses actually state their ethical stance in their marketing materials or mission and vision statement. They may, for example, have a slogan that becomes part of their branding. The dealership where I purchased and service my vehicle has signs all over that state, "Home of the totally satisfied customer." That is a strong statement that informs the world about the goals and values of the business.

Standards are expectations that set the bar for the business and those who work within it. They usually outline the way that people are to be treated and how things will be done. Usually they describe the minimum expectations for performances.

Besides having ethics and standards, each business needs to have a process to deal with ethical dilemmas. This usually involves clearly defining the problem, considering the options, consulting with others and then setting up an evaluation after one of the options is chosen.

When someone is in breach of a standard or ethics, the business owner also needs to be able to have a process and consequence method in place. Different levels of severity might have different levels of consequences. For example, when a staff member breaches confidentiality after signing a pledge at hiring to honour this, s/he might face immediate employment termination. On the other hand, if someone forgets to mail out forms to a client, the consequence might involve a conversation with the owner where a plan is set up to apologize to the client and ensure that they are sent out in the future with a warning of what the consequence would be for making this mistake a second time.

If your business does not have written ethics and standards of practice, you risk hurting the business. You, the staff and the clients will not be able to identify or respect common values and there will not be at least a minimum performance level that can be depended upon consistently.


Dr. Linda Hancock, the author of “Life is An Adventure…every step of the way” and “Open for Business Success” is a Registered Psychologist who has a private practice in Medicine Hat. She can be reached at 403-529-6877 or through email office@drlindahancock.com


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