Un­eth­i­cal be­hav­ior can spread, speaker says

For­mer Air Force of­fi­cer says it's vi­tal to watch for lapses in the work­place

Tulsa World - - Work&money - By Mike Aver­ill is the right Mike Aver­ill 918-581-8489 mike.aver­ill@tul­saworld.com Twit­ter: @Mike_Aver­ill

When some­one con­sid­ered the least likely to be­have poorly com­mits a great eth­i­cal fail­ure, the rea­son is of­ten a sim­ple one.

“It's just what is in­side them,” said Tracey Jones.

Jones, a for­mer Air Force of­fi­cer and Gulf War vet­eran, is an au­thor and pres­i­dent of Tremen­dous Life Books.

Jones was the key­note speaker Tues­day at an Ok­la­homa Busi­ness Ethics Con­sor­tium lun­cheon, where she dis­cussed tips for mak­ing eth­i­cal de­ci­sions and the im­por­tance of sur­round­ing one­self with the right peo­ple both in per­sonal and work life.

“In this day and age, ethics is an in­te­gral part of ex­cel­lence,” Jones said. “I hear a lot of great or­ga­ni­za­tions that re­ally talk the talk about hav­ing great peo­ple, … but from an ethics per­spec­tive, they're not walk­ing the walk.”

In fact, peo­ple are so of­ten let down by those in lead­er­ship po­si­tions that it shouldn't be sur­pris­ing any­more, Jones said.

In­stead of be­ing sur­prised or let­ting an­other per­son's ac­tions tear down an or­ga­ni­za­tion, peo­ple should take steps to im­prove their crit­i­cal think­ing and de­ci­sion mak­ing and cre­ate a vir­tu­ous cir­cle.

The ma­jor­ity of eth­i­cal de­ci­sions in day-to-day life are gray-area de­ci­sions where there is no right and wrong in a le­gal sense, but there is a de­ci­sion that just isn't right.

“With eth­i­cal de­ci­sion mak­ing, it's not just about the best thing to do but about the right thing to do,” Jones said.

She used the ex­am­ple of the sub­prime mort­gage cri­sis that re­sulted from loans in which peo­ple mak­ing $30,000 a year were given $300,000 home loans by peo­ple who likely thought they were mak­ing the best de­ci­sion.

“How is that the right thing to do? Their tem­po­rary gain was more im­por­tant than peo­ple's long-term pain,” she said. “Ethics isn't just about what you're get­ting now but what, in the big pic­ture, thing to do.”

Eth­i­cal com­pa­nies are built around peo­ple who serve the in­sti­tu­tion over the ego.

By the time un­eth­i­cal be­hav­ior by some­one in an agency is no­ticed, it typ­i­cally isn't the first time they've be­haved or acted in that man­ner, Jones said.

That's why it's im­por­tant to watch for char­ac­ter mal­for­ma­tions and cut them out when they are dis­cov­ered.

“The prob­lem with char­ac­ter mal­for­ma­tions is they don't go away. They're like a can­cer, and they'll metas­ta­size in the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” she said.

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