Exercise your ethics muscle

March 4, 2017 Rosemary

Exercise your ethics muscle

Exercise your ethics muscle: Be honest at the self-service scanners

Coles and Woolworths trust us, their customers, to allow us to scan and pay for our own purchases. They trust that we know what to do, we know what is right and we want to do the right thing.

We can always argue we don’t know what to do (‘oh, was that a RED capsicum: I thought it was a green one’ which was half the price), or that we don’t know what is right (‘well I presumed that if it didn’t go through the first couple of times it wasn’t my problem’) or that we don’t want to do the right thing (‘the big supermarkets rip us off all the time, so it’s not my problem if I take a teensy bit from them sometime’).

These are not original examples of how people justify not doing the right thing at the self-service checkout. It is based on what callers said when they phoned in to James Valentine who was talking ethics on the ABC with an ethicist. To paraphrase roughly, she said people make decisions based one of two ways of thinking:

  1. How many people will be damaged by me doing the wrong thing (and is it big damage or not?) or
  2. Is this just wrong and therefore I won’t do it.

She pointed out something that I know to be true: we all know what is right. And I’ll add that we know what to do and we want to do the right thing. The monster that gets in the way is a sense of entitlement. It pushes our inner wisdom aside and grabs whatever it wants.

The ethicist alerted us to the necessity of always being guided by the second question: ‘is this just wrong and therefore I won’t do it’.  She said that we all have an ethics muscle (I love that idea) and we should learn to use it. To exercise it. That way when we are faced with the big decisions, we are ready to do the right thing, say the right thing, be known for the right thing.

Some actions don’t have great impact, but others really do. And if we have learnt to say no to the little things that cause just a little damage, it is much easier to make the right decision when the impact is much greater.

Andrew Griffiths points out the important of these kinds of decisions in business in his article on Inc.com, ‘If you cross this line you can never come back’. He says that if you make the wrong decision in business when you are at an ethical crossroads, there is no coming back. He says that at some stage in your business life you will be faced with that crossroads and you must be very careful. That once you cross that line it is easier to keep crossing it, and that you will eventually get caught out and your reputation will be ‘tarnished if not ruined’.

So, exercise your ethical muscle every chance you get. Say where you were when people ask, don’t blame the trains when you left the office late, don’t take the stationery unless it’s yours. Make sure that every expense you claim to be a business expense is a business expense, and everything you charge your client for has been done.

Your Mentor Within is a great companion to help you make better decisions – the right decisions – and take powerful action. Action that creates wins for you, those around you and the world. That’s what good ethics are for.

Next time you think it doesn’t matter when you don’t scan your shopping correctly, think again. Put is right. Next time you, as an adult, want to eat the free-fruit-for-kids at Woolworths, think twice. Step away from the fruit. Your Mentor Within is watching, and your inner wisdom is telling you what to do. That ethical muscle is waiting to be exercised, strengthened and flexed. It’s for the greater good.

Photo by Imants Kaziļuns on Unsplash

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