Many people in business have at one time or another been confronted with unethical business practices. These practices have helped to give business a bad reputation. How we respond to these situations can involve having to make difficult decisions, even to the point of blowing the whistle and bringing the matter to the attention of an outside body.
30. Gambling and speculation
In gambling we gain by the outcome of some chance event and from the losses of other people. When we invest in exceptionally risky ventures with the hope of a large return in the future, we are speculating.
Unjustified confidence and optimism or an addiction to the excitement of uncertainty can lead to disaster. In a working environment this might put your employees’ livelihood at stake.
Do you invest or use company funds for speculation or gambling?
Do you entertain business colleagues at casinos or other venues where gambling takes place?
31. Corrupt practices
Practices which we would consider corrupt are commonly accepted in some industries and cultures.
Corrupt practices include theft, embezzlement, bribery, kickbacks, grease payments, fraud, slavery, discrimination, ill-treatment, intimidation, extortion, dishonesty, bullying, and others.
Corrupt practices may be discussed using other, country specific, labels or mischaracterised in accounts and reports.
Make sure you know clearly what the commercial conditions are in each of the countries and industries where you seek to do business.
Choose your markets to ensure that prospective business opportunities will not tempt employees to get involved with these corrupt practices.
Make sure that your employees know that these kinds of practices are not acceptable.
Do you have a clear written policy on business conduct which all employees sign?
Do you investigate prospective markets for corrupt practices with sufficient rigour?
Do you choose your markets and industries to avoid all forms of bribery; embezzlement; kickbacks; extortion; grease payments and corruption, both within your own business and in your dealings with business partners?
When you do work in cultures where bribery and corruption are part of the way of life, are you able to be sufficiently patient and gentle with intermediaries so that you find ways of doing business that express your own ethical standards?
Are you sure your staff are not placed in situations where they find it necessary to offer bribes or make payments which while possibly legal might be regarded as a bribe by outsiders should the details of the payment be known?
Do you ensure staff have the necessary support so that they can lose a sale rather than make a bribe without it adversely affecting their job or career prospects?
Do you consider the possibility that your incentive schemes and performance management procedures could encourage unethical behaviour (e.g. a requirement to meet a target)?
Are you confident your organisation does not engage in inappropriate lobbying of governments to obtain an unfair advantage or ability to exploit others or the environment?
Do you create opportunities for staff to consider the ethical implications of what they do including considering whether there are any practices which would be regarded as unacceptable if they became publicly known?
Do you discourage and work against sharp practice in all your workplaces? Do you speak out against the corrupt practices you discover?
Do you keep records of what is demanded of you and what you have to pay? Does the making of these payments undermine the viability of the business?
Can you find others with whom you can share your concerns so that over time you can be in a community that can respond collectively to such extortion?
32. Whistle blowing
Before blowing the whistle on an organisation, or on a particular business practice, consider carefully the consequences of your actions. Your role is to be a witness to the truth. Be sure that you understand the reasons for the practice and that your evidence is clear, complete and unambiguous. Make sure that your own motives will withstand public scrutiny.
Act promptly as soon as you are sure of what you intend to do. Where possible, seek advice and guidance from others. Work through an agency to remove undue emotions and personalities from the situation allowing truth and facts to prevail.
Is the action you contemplate likely to lead to a change for the better? If not, what is your motivation? Is there a better, less confrontational, way of dealing with the situation? Do you realise that your action might cost you your job and that will affect your personal life and your career? Have you sought independent, wise counsel before proceeding?
Do you encourage employees to speak up about ethical concerns?
Can you guarantee that an employee will not be penalised in any way for raising a genuine concern - even if it is a concern about how you run the business?
Is your company’s culture one where your staff and colleagues have the confidence to deal with unethical conduct?
Do you have procedures in place so that your employees can, if necessary, blow the whistle without being penalised?