Business and Ethics

Knight of SwordsMy piece To Potential Business Clients elicited some nice responses, and even got me a new client from out of the blue. Isn’t it odd how so many businesses try to play up the image game, with all their sayings and promises that everyone else already knows are largely vacuous? The even stranger thing is, when businesses decide they don’t want to play this game, and instead be completely honest, they have no clue how to go about being honest and straight-forward.

Businesses reflect the people who shape and direct them, and to a lesser degree, the employees and contractors who represent them. If a person is more conscience of their image than their substance, this is what the business will be. If the person is accustomed to maneuvering and making excuses for bad things, this is what the business will be. If the person is honest with all their strengths and their shortcomings, this is what the business will be. Judging by the responses I received, the latter is what people prefer.

When you misrepresent yourself, you participate in willful manipulation. As a rule, people do not appreciate being manipulated. People do not appreciate it when someone seeks to control their perception. In fact, it is an act of evil. It is an act of evil because the person with the access to truth seeks to hide and alter that truth into something else that plays toward their own benefit. And doing this removes any potential for choice that another person might have, replacing that choice with the will of the deceiver. People rarely think this through, but it is why people do not like misrepresentation. We posses an innate instinct about being wronged in this way. Yet most of us are perfectly comfortable taking choices away from others like this. We want to look good, even when we know that we are not.

This presents a large problem for businesses, since the majority of people themselves never truly are who they seem to be. With this, how can any business be considered trust worthy? How can you know for certain if they truly care about anything other than what they want? Of course, they will tell you that you, the customer, are their top priority, and that they are trustworthy. But when your access to knowledge and truth is also controlled by them, what is the reality of who they are? And how will this effect you?

Businesses will rationalize as well, just like people, any of their wrongdoings. For example, it’s okay to manipulate these people with the truth hidden, because really, we are good, and they will be better off with us, even though we are not who we appear to be. In this, they absolve themselves by changing their act of evil into an act of good, performed upon those people within their control. In other words, by removing another’s awareness and choice, and causing them to do what you want, you have done them a favor.

If a business realizes they are committing this evil, the next level of rationalization is to reassure themselves that it is not, actually, an act of evil because everyone else is doing the same thing to others. In other words, an act of evil is not evil if a lot of people are doing it.

And finally, if the person or business is discovered in their deception, the retreat is most often to hostility and anger that is projected instead upon the client, rather than themselves. That is, the last refuge of the liar is hostility toward those to whom he lies. It is either this, or a sudden and utter disregard for their victims, so that they might carry on their own business as usual.

It’s a fascinating exploration between business and human personality. So often we hear that business must be kept separate from the personal, but as we see, they are already intimately intertwined at the most fundamental level. And this is the challenge businesses face as they present themselves to the world: how can they appear trustworthy, dependable, and even at all good, when the people shaping the business bring so much of their own personalities along them?

The answer is simple. Appearance does not matter. The people themselves who shape the business must confront the very issues of their own character for the sake of their business. These factors are also mutually reinforcing. Those who, in their personal life, subscribe to deception, will find it increasingly easy to justify further deception in their lives, and out into the realm of their customers. The converse is also true, those who are willing and curageous enough to represent themselves truly, standing upright beside their purported ideals, will find their personal life far more attuned to the more honorable and noble. And this will improve not only their own life, but also set a potent example of what is possible to others.

Sales is the slippery slope. These are the purported masters of representation and human influence. Few professions have so many people who are utter shams or despots, yet walk and talk the good line. Guns for hire, with all the throw-away benefits, and all the dangers of backstabbing in the night. Their purpose is the influence of people and businesses send them out in droves, with only the thinnest ropes. If they perform well at what they do, their influence grows within the business, until such time that appearances are the driving force instead, at the very least on par with real products or services. This point is the second ethical milestone a business reaches, and it is very much like the first.

I love watching businesses come together, take off and grow. It truly is people flying only by the seats of their pants, and it’s a joy. You see so many different struggles met and matched, along with a share of bloody noses and defeats. But it is the good fight I like. The just and honorable cause. And best of all, the vision of something truly greater for us all. These are beyond the ken of most business people. This is because they become trapped, struggling more against themselves and their self-made failings than building something truly wonderful. When you are out for the true betterment of others, any deception is anathema. They will forever fall short, even if they happen to become monetarily successful. And that is a sad story.

So to you business people who believe you are true, look deeply and honestly at yourself. If you can still say that you are, look at the other people and forces in your life, and what they cause you to do. Do they cause you to lie or waste resources? Do they encourage you compromise unwisely? Do they challenge you to become more, or cause you to sink into being less? Do you feel good and fulfilled by your endeavor? Or do you find reasons and make excuses? Can you lie with dignity, honor and conviction? Or do you face your challenges head-on, whole, and become more?

Each step reinforces us, one way or another. Yet still, it is never too late. And if I ever meet you out there in the wild, I would be honored to be at your side, fighting the good fight.