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Are ethics dead? – Part 2 “Fear, Pressure, and Greed”

I will stipulate that running any business is pretty much one big juggling act waiting for a curtain that never drops.

Markets are ever-changing and competition abounds.

I will likely, as this series continues,  get into specific industries, products, services, and practices.  But as we ease ourselves into this material, I want to keep a bird’s eye view for a bit.

What drives unethical behavior in a business?

Any great manager understands that each of us have different motivators and drivers of our behavior.  Most good, some bad.  Some are common and some are as unique as individuals themselves are.

Sadly, I’ve seen that the business world is replete with some truly despicable people.  Many of these players are incorrigibly faulty either due to an inherent lack of “goodness” or by the mere fact that they have entrenched themselves in unethical behavior for so long, that they can no longer conceive of exercising their talents in any othe way.

From this series of articles, those people will benefit nothing more than a chuckle.  The first few paragraphs alone may be enough to trigger their gag reflex.

But this series isn’t for the irretrievably lost, it’s for us.  We still care.  We still care about our clients, our reputation, and our legacy.

Let me admit here, that I am not without sin.  I’m not writing these words at a desk that I’ve cobbled together with well-worn soap-boxes.

If one, by necessity, remains surrounded by unethical behavior for long enough, only the strongest and most virtuous survive un-singed.

So again I ask, what drives unethical behavior in business?

Greed?  Sure.  But it’s more than that, isn’t it?

It’s also fear.  Fear of the competition, fear of falling behind, fear of losing our business, fear of losing our job, fear of being unable to pay one’s bills.

It’s also pressure.  The pressure to perform, the pressure to hit targets, the pressure to hit commission levels, the pressure to stay ‘ahead of the pack’.

The world of sales and business is dripping with clichés like ‘win-win’ , and ‘the customer is always right’  .  There are whole coaching and speaking careers built on training us to deliver ‘exceptional customer service’.

Why then, when the curtain is pulled back, do we discover that the inner clockworks are often lubricated with the pulp and juices of a thoroughly squeezed customer?

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