I was raised in the self-employment world. My father owned his own business for over 40 years and I heard him complain often that the integrity of others in his business world lacked much to be desired. It always amazed and frustrated him, sometimes to the point of legal action, that others in the same business thought it was optional to pay him, their bills, or contractors. They still got away with it year after year and I always wondered how they stayed in business if they were such “bad” people. I still had much to learn about “business” and people.
As I have matured into this realm of the self-employed, I have come to understand that ethics isn’t just about determining who is right and who is wrong in their actions around you. Ethics is about what makes people tick – how or why they make the decisions they do. What is right and wrong, good or bad – depends on THEIR beliefs but also MY beliefs. It is about beliefs and how those beliefs run our behaviors and how we interact with those beliefs.
See, ethics is really about our own personal melting pots of feelings, emotions and beliefs that we all make decisions from about everything we do.
Example: While some people can see the wrong side of not being prompt with paying a bill, there are others who feel there is no problem with waiting until the last possible moment before there is a penalty to pay it or to even pay the penalty. The bill is paid correct? The difference is in the belief of the timing of paying it. Timing has feeling, emotions, and beliefs that surround it. None of those things make the timing correct or incorrect, right or wrong. There is no law broken on the timing of paying. Paying is still the end result, correct?
Once you pass the behavior and enter in breaking the law or a rule, then these actions can be deemed as “wrong”, but it’s the journey that drives our actions to these boundaries that people disagree on the most.
Ask yourself this question: What do you think about speeding? Ask yourself where you stand with this law, what you believe and think about it, and why you act the way you do. You will find that under it all, you have a belief structure set up that you behave from. If you find that you want to change your actions then you must first change your belief structure.
Ethics is more than just boundaries and rules. It is how you interpret and understand those boundaries and rules that impacts your behavior. Then you begin to understand how your behavior manages you.
I want to discuss 3 things about why ethics are important in YOUR Business.
To Keep Yourself in Check with Your Professional Behavior
Whenever you take an ethics class, it makes you pause and start asking questions about how you behave in your business and profession. Just stopping and asking yourself questions like “Am I fair and equal in how I treat all my clients? Do I represent myself and my profession in a positive way? Am I maintaining the HIPAA rules and keeping clients information confidential?” make you re-evaluate your behavior and think about ways to improve it.
We ALL need reminders to help us re-establish healthy and positive work behaviors and boundaries. We all make mistakes and slack in our striving of bettering ourselves in business and life. We can always improve ourselves. Classes in ethics help remind and guide us to what we need to be striving for.
To Remember that there is More Than One Way to Look at a Problem
I recently put together an on-line class about “Resolving Workplace Conflict” for my on-line training program. At the heart of the class is the reminder that we all come from someplace different in our lives. We all behave differently and when I place a judgment on someone’s behavior it is because I think that my co-worker’s behavior should match mine.
To be able to see someones point of view, you must take a step back and logically (not emotionally) look at situations around you. Is the behavior you don’t agree on? Are they truly breaking a law? Is their belief just not the same as your beliefs and you don’t approve? Why do you feel you don’t approve? What is the disagreement truly based on?
When you approach situations in this manner, you are able to begin looking for a positive resolution to the problem at hand. In the end, the only person you can control is yourself and setting an example is the most profound way to affect another’s behavior.
Ethics teaches us that we are all unique. That each one us come from a background that most likely set our beliefs for us; parents, community, religious affiliations, training, and the experiences of our younger years. Tolerance occurs when you take a step back and see people for who they are – not who you THINK they are, or are not, based on how you weigh their behavior.
For myself, I have learned that taking a step back and observing what people do
Observation helps us to maintain, at the least, some degree of compassion and it is a much more healing place and behavior that lends itself to understanding people. I really don’t have to agree with what some people do, but I also don’t have to act upon it either. It is their life to live and I have mine.
Some of the most enlightening moments in my life have come from the relationships built from this place of observation. Anytime I start to feel like relationships in my business or personal life are feeling strained, it is typically because I have started to place a judgment on them from my belief system and have forgotten to be more diplomatic in my behavior.
Example: You have a client that is always late but expects a full session. You get frustrated because you don’t believe in being late to appointments and it is not fair to you to make you scramble for the next person. Somewhere inside, the client believes that when they are late its fine and that people will adapt for you. They may not know or believe any different based on their life’s experiences. Especially if people always have adapted for them in the past.
This allows you to keep your beliefs but it also allows the client to keep theirs if that is what they want. It really isn’t for you to decide if their behavior is right or wrong and point it out to them, have a heated debate, or create a negative experience that affects you deeply.
What you did was give the client their choices while maintaining your integrity and respect for yourself. This person can evolve and respect you, receiving the full hour of service if they are there on time. They can pay for the time they are not there and be just fine with it (I have had these clients believe it or not), or they can find another therapist to accommodate them and their behavior.
Ethics is not just a class. It is a set of concepts that you practice for the rest of your life. It is a peacefulness you feel inside when you are clear about yourself and those around you. When you practice more ethical behaviors, conflicts resolve themselves and openings for new and more healthy behaviors emerge.
And like myself, you may find that it can positively and profoundly affect many areas of your life in the process.