By Charlie A. Webb CPP, CMC
I had the great fortune to be raised by two very value-centered parents. And through my entire personal and professional career I’ve been a keen observer of ethical and unethical behavior. Recently I have discovered an interesting phenomenon or perhaps it’s just an observation. Nonetheless, I find its irony quite interesting.
The irony is that there seems to be a great deal of unethical ethics. Unethical ethics is a phenomenon that takes place when someone does the right thing but does so for the wrong reasons. It’s not hard to find an example of this type of ethical model, just look at politicians quick to take a photo-opps at the cause du jour, their not so stealthy intent is to be value-centered by association.
I always remember my identical twin brother telling me that people who need to advertise their ethics are usually devoid of ethics – and there does seem to be a scientific corollary. I see this as delicious irony that some of the people that beat their chest so much about the merits of values seem to make the six o clock news with their ethical follies. It seems that the people who truly believe in the merits of doing the right thing just simple (and quietly) do so. We don’t measure a person’s ethics by their declarations but rather through their actions as indeed actions are the pure truths.
My father use to quote the saying that asked, “If the behavior you are currently engaged in was put on the front page of your local newspaper, would you be comfortable?” This to me is certainly a good litmus test. When looking for the true metrics of how we measure on the ethical scale, we need to ask ourselves, “How do we behave when no one is looking?” When a security camera or an auditor’s pen does not scrutinize us, we may behave ethically, powered simply by the notion of “It’s best to do the right thing.” But when we do what is right under the model that we should do right for the sake of doing the right we have now crossed into the light.
It is my contention that we are in an epidemic, an epidemic of failing values in the era of welfare fraud and corporate cowardliness. It’s time we turn to ourselves with a personal mandate that we should behave correctly in order to build our own character. And that character is what drives our careers and personal lives. Perhaps in time we’ll all institute a personal ethics policy that will carry into every corner of our lives and begin to raise the bar on the diminishing American value.