Just as the word ‘ethics’ has a different definition from the word ‘etiquette,’ there is a vast difference between business ethics and business etiquette. If top executives and top executive management say one thing but do another, the message of ethical behavior gets very confusing. It is important that all the people in the company believe that is critical that all its employees act at all times in an honest and ethical manner in connection with their service to the company.
While there are some exceptions, business ethicists are usually less concerned with the foundations of ethics (meta-ethics), or with justifying the most basic ethical principles, and are more concerned with practical problems and applications, and any specific duties that might apply to business relationships.
Business ethics start with determining what the exact purpose of the business or company is. For example, a corporation has an ethical duty to secure the maximum return to its shareholders. While all of us have sometimes slipped from our ethical pedestal, this suggestion is the ultimate loss of ethics and responsibility in our society.
The unique position that the small business owner is in regarding the formation of an ethics policy yields a great responsibility. Ethical businesses treat both customers and employees with respect and fairness. Ethics are thought of by many people as something that is related to the private side of life and not to the business side.
Although not all strategic decisions can be played out in a public forum for competitive and confidentiality reasons, the outcomes of those decisions (changes to organizational structure, design, resource allocation, product direction etc.) should be communicated as thoroughly as possible including the rationale and criteria behind the decision to help employees understand the decision and make a better connection between the firm’s espoused values and those used to make important decisions.