December 11, 2015. Retrieved online December 14, 2015 from Alta LeCompte, Las Cruces Bulletin
[Excerpts below reprinted with permission: Read the complete Las Cruces Bulletin article]
“Just do the right thing,” we are told in life and in business.
But doing the right thing in the workplace is not always as simple as it sounds.
Jeffrey Silva, branch manager for US Bank, named one of the most ethical companies in the world for 2015, said he first encountered ethical issues early in 30-year career as manager in retail and banking.
Silva said he had to fire an employee who was caught stealing.
He learned later she was going through a messy divorce and was raising a child that needed expensive medical treatment.
Although the employee’s actions would not meet most people’s definitions of “the right thing,” he lamented not knowing her financial predicament in time to perhaps help in some way.
Many years later, he continues to be concerned about ethics in the workplace.
Where workplace meets academia
Currently working for his MBA at New Mexico State University, Silva is taking a class “Management Leadership,” which delves into business ethics.
For the class, he is writing a paper: “Business Ethics in the Global Business Environment.”
“With the recession in 2008 … and many job losses due to a slow economy, all we have is our integrity to do the right thing. We have only one chance to make a great impression on customers and potential customers. If we fail, our competition is right there to take those customers.”
Silva said ethics is, in fact, currently a hot topic throughout the business world.
In fact, business ethics can get so complicated that New Mexico State University has an entire program devoted to it.
Daniels Fund supports NMSU initiative
In January 2010, the NMSU College of Business was awarded $1.25 million over five years to develop a principle- based ethics program.
Following the success of its five-year pilot program, in December 2014 the College was awarded an additional $1.25 million over the next five years to continue its principle-based ethics program.
Bruce Huhmann, director of the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the NMSU College of Business, and associate professor in the Department of Marketing, coordinates NMSU’s role in the project.
He described principle-based ethics as following a universal set of principles, as opposed to situational ethics, which deals with ethical questions on a case-by-case basis. Universal principles embraced by the code developed at NMSU include trust, accountability and fairness.
He said the business school incorporates ethics into many of its courses rather than offering a stand-alone course.
A code of ethics is a decision-making tool, he said. Some questions that may be asked include: Who are the stakeholders affected by the decision? Is it transparent? Does it build trust? Does it treat people fairly?
“Trust is very important in all relationships,” Huhmann said.
“Business relationships that have trust don’t have to be so legalistic. This reduces costs and increases commitment.”
The Western States School of Banking at NMSU, which offers continuing education for bankers incorporates ethics into its curriculum.
“Banking gets a bad rap, but for the most part bankers know the importance of behaving ethically,” Huhmann said. He said the nonprofit Ethicsphere Institute, which named US Bank as the only honoree in the super-regional banks category, regularly conducts a business study in which they look at companies’ practices.
Honorees not only promote ethical business standards and practices internally, they exceed legal compliance minimums and shape future industry standards by introducing best practices today,” Ethicspere’s website stated.
In 2015, 132 honorees were named spanning 21 countries and five continents and representing more than 50 industries. In its ninth year, the list includes 15 nine-time honorees and 11 first-time honorees.
Ethics, small-business style
Small, local businesses tend to be very close to their customers, Huhmann said.
“Their reputation matters a great deal. The most successful small businesses treat their customers well and they know their customers. Their customers are more willing to stick with them even if a new store opens down the street,” Huhmann said.
On the other hand, small businesses have some unique challenges, he said.
“They have more problems with fraud because they don’t have the manpower to look for it.”