Do Ethics Matter?

Seems like a silly question doesn’t it!  Anyone would naturally say YES!  And yet not a day goes by that we find the media reporting on all types of unethical behavior, the outcome of which can bring catastrophic consequences on the organization.  So allow me to ask this again in perhaps a different way — Are Ethics Important to Your Organization?
I was recently doing a presentation for a large financial services company when a participant approached me at the end of the program. Extending his hand, he spoke highly of the program and said that it surprised him that he stayed awake during an “ethics” program (my programs are far from boring). Then he said, “I wish my daughter could have been here to hear this; she really needs a lesson in ethics.” With me looking at him with curiosity on my face, he continued to say, “She was expelled for a day from school for stealing a kid’s pencil. I couldn’t believe it. A pencil!” He was exasperated. “I told her if I had known she needed supplies I could have gotten her plenty of pencils from work.”
STOP! I was stunned. Apparently, my program didn’t quite hit home based on what he just said. Effectively. he stated that he could “steal” pencils from work to supply his daughter so she wouldn’t have to steal them from school. AMAZING! Yet, what he said is part of what’s a systemic problem in society today as it relates to ethical behavior. The truth is, most people believe that it’s OK to do something wrong — even break the law — as long as everyone does it.
Oh…so you disagree. Interesting. Consider your answers to the following questions: (1) Would YOU voluntarily choose to make an unethical choice?  (2) Do YOU believe that voluntarily breaking the law is unethical?  (3) Have YOU driven on the interstate highway in the past two weeks? and (4) Did YOU exceed the speed limit by 5 to 10 mile per hour.
Great, so let’s be honest. It’s easy to make unethical choices (perhaps illegal choices) as long as those choices are socially acceptable. Speeding — well, it’s socially acceptable as long as it’s just a little bit. But that raises a question: what other behaviors are “acceptable. yet wrong” if only done a little bit?  Stealing from the office? Violating Social Media rules at work? Fudging on an expense report (just a bit)?  Sexually harassing people (well, just a bit) as long as it’s not over the top?
The truth is I can’t tell you where the line is — because ethics isn’t black and white. What I can tell you is that ethics in the workplace is a serious matter, but talking about it doesn’t have to be business as usual.
Let me ask one last question — and it’s a serious one: is your organization truly committed to a culture of ethical action(s)? When was the last time you had an ethics program that was more than just a check-off on an HR list?  My programs move the needle on the ethical dial — helping your employees or association members do more than just give lip service to making ethical choices.
Call us here at All Things Speaking, and let’s work together to move the ethical needle forward!
About All Things Speaking Chuck Gallagher is recognized as an authority on ethics and is one of the most sought-after speakers on the subject. All Things Speaking is a professional speaker management company blessed to represent Chuck and five other rare treasures in the speaking industry. We unite our speakers with speakers bureaus and event planners representing organizations all over the world. The strengths of All Things Speaking™ are our experience, knowledge and an unparalleled understanding of the industry. For more information about Chuck Gallagher, please visit  

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