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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Don’t let your ethics be a casualty of a bad economy

Don’t let your ethics be a casualty of a bad economy

October 1st, 2010

Career Opportunities podcast logoA lousy economy can be tough on everyone. We all are looking for ways to get by until things improve. Unfortunately, one of the first items to suffer is often our own, personal ethics, No one will see if we take something that isn’t ours. No one will notice that kickback on a sale. No one will notice when I lie about my products. No one will notice that my farmer’s market produce wasn’t grown by me, but purchased at a wholesaler. Oh, and by the way, it isn’t organic or even pesticide free. It is easy to cut corners when life is tough, but, in most cases, we risk damaging our careers and our lives beyond repair.

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Laws don’t change when the economy is slow. Slow times don’t bring any special dispensations. Your local prosecutor isn’t going to look the other way just because you are unemployed. If you start to slack on your ethics, you could end up turning a bad situation into something much, much worse. You might be struggling, but I can guarantee you that a prison sentence, probation or house arrest is worse than any economic downturn you might be experiencing.

Too often, our ethics are led down the path to destruction by those who have even fewer ethical scruples. Bad times bring out hucksters, grifters, and blatant criminals in large numbers. They know that bad times mean big business for them. Scared people are easy marks. They can even get people to commit crimes for them — or at least cooperate with them — if they are good enough at winning their trust.

In these hard economic times, you need to be particularly watchful for those that might be trying to take advantage of you and your situation. Beware those who offer deals “too good to be true.” As we all know, this is the first red flag that something is amiss. Not matter how much we may want to believe that we can become millionaires overnight, we know in our hearts that it isn’t true. Learn the warning signs. If you are like me, you probably see a dozen scams in your email Inbox each day. What do they have in common? What “code words” seem to be used in most of them. Do you see people using those same words in real life? You should recognize these as red flags, too.

Finally, companies can also go down the wrong path in an effort to stay afloat. If you have been in the work world long enough you have probably worked at a company like this. Corners are cut. Refunds are stalled. Credit cards are charged for items that won’t be delivered for weeks. In some of the worst cases, clients are billed for hours not worked and other work never performed.

What should you do if your company is cutting ethical corners? Report them. Why would you want to do that if you might lose your job? It really isn’t your problem, right? Wrong!

Who do you think is going to take the fall for these behaviors when they are, inevitably discovered? Company executives? Your manager? No, the prosecutors are going to charge those most involved in the illegal behaviors — the people they can easily prove were directly engaged in the crime. You are easy pickings and a company would gladly risk losing you if it meant the company would survive. You falsified the records. You changed and mailed the invoices. You signed the checks. They will claim they had no idea what you were doing, even if you received direct verbal orders — under threat of dismissal — if you didn’t do what they said. “Prove it!”, they will say, as you are taken away in handcuffs.

I hope I have made it clear that compromising your ethics at any time, not just during this economic downturn, could have a dramatically ill effect on your career, your family and your life. Don’t go down that path, or you may find it very difficult to ever make it back. Building your career can be very tough sometimes, but there are much tougher circumstances to face if you decide that “the ends justify the means.”



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