Ethics Make Us Powerful

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Ethics make us powerful.

Several years ago, Susie Sainte, Sam and Joe the Tribal Worker were all on the same board. They had found out that the program director was misusing funds and had agreed to vote at the next meeting to have him removed. Before the meeting, the program director went to Joe and offered to give his son a job. He also offered to give Susie's company a contract to evaluate their program, and suggested that Sam that he attend a meeting for the project in Hawaii, paid with project funds.

Sam and Susie turned down these offers, but at the next meeting, were they ever surprised when Joe voted with two other board members to keep the project director. Sam and Susie resigned from the board the same week Joe's son started his new high-paying job. Both swore they would never have anything to do with Joe and his unethical behavior again.

Last week, Susie ran into Sam and he could not wait to tell her how unhappy he was that he had agreed to do the staff training for a program where Joe the Tribal Worker was now the training manager. Joe had great difficulty getting anyone to work with him because of his known unethical ways. He had one of his staff members, Sally, contact Sam and ask him to do the training.

Susie asked in surprise,

"Why would you do that? I thought you said after Joe completely lied about that board meeting and sold his vote to the program director for a job for his son that you would never work for him again."

Sam answered,

"Yes, but I'm not working with Joe, I'm working with Sally, who is a good person. I wouldn't do it for myself but I work with this youth sobriety group and she promised that their program would donate money to the youth group to pay their way to the state meeting. These are really good kids who have worked hard all year and they deserve to make this trip. You'd do the same, wouldn't you?"

Susie stared at Sam for a minute and then answered in the direct way that had made her not very popular,

"I wouldn't, because I don't have a price."

Then she walked away.

Here we have two people who have experienced lies and unethical behavior. One of them decides to forgive and forget - FOR A PRICE. These are the lies we tell to ourselves, that it is not selling out because it is "for the kids", "for a good cause".

The other one never works with that lying, unethical person again.

 Sam will tell you that he can't help it. He is doing it to help the youth group, it is for a good cause. Yet, Sam is unhappy, doing something he doesn't want to do, working with someone he doesn't trust and even though he says he is working with Sally, he knows that Joe is her boss so he is even lying to himself saying he isn't working for Joe.

What about Susie? How does she get the power to not ever be roped into Joe's deceitful circle again? Simple. As she said, she has ethics that are not for sale at any price.

Of all of the ways I have seen good people (and not so good people) sell themselves, saying it is for the good cause is far and away the most common.

I can't count the number of times I have had people who wanted my vote, or wanted me to give a false, positive evaluation of their project suggest to me that they could get my company a contract for grants, evaluation or training. I have four children. It would be easy for me to sound very ethical saying that I value my family (I do), they are my first priority (they are) and so I have no choice to take that contract and work for Joe. That last part is a lie.

THE TRUTH is that I do have a choice. If my work is so mediocre that I need to sell out to get contracts, I should find something else to do.

I do think that in the long-run being ethical is better business, but EVEN IF IT ISN'T, I'm not going to sell out.

So, back to Susie. I asked her,

"What would you do if you were Sam?"

She answered,
"I'd go and find some other cause to work for or I'd find another way to raise funds for the youth group. Hell, I'll sell cookies like the Girl Scouts but there's no way I'm going to sell myself. "

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