What would you do if you faced an ethical dilemma? Decide now, before it happens, and you are more likely to follow the correct path.
Someone who was a mentor to me early in my career is in Federal prison right now for taking funds from client accounts and using them to operate his business. Certainly wrong, and you would never do anything like that, right?
It is not likely that he woke up one day and said, “Gee, the sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day, I think I’ll grab a few million bucks from my clients.” Getting to that point was a gradual process. He was in a tough, perhaps desperate situation, so he justified moving some money. He may have believed he would pay the money back when things got better. But things never got better, and he ended up stealing $5 million. He may have thought of it as “borrowing.” He may even have believed he was doing the right thing because he was keeping his company going and paying his employees.
We hear all the time about someone who was a trusted bookkeeper for a small business for 30 years, until one day it is discovered that they embezzled $500,000. In most cases, they did not set out to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from their employer. Often it starts because they are a little short of cash, so they borrow $50 from petty cash until payday. Maybe they even pay it back the first few times. Then one day they need $300 to get their car repaired. Pretty soon they are writing checks for hundreds or thousands of dollars.
You may think of yourself as an honest person, but do you know what you would do if you were faced with a choice to do either the right thing or the expedient thing? This is not just about money. Ethical “shortcuts” take many different forms. It might mean doing something underhanded to a colleague or competitor, or lying to a client.
Once someone takes that first step to do something that is unethical, immoral or illegal, the next step becomes easier. Each step is a decision, and each step takes them away from the right path.
Decide right now that you will always do the right thing. Making the commitment when the choice is not staring you in the face will make it easier to do what you need to do when you encounter what could be a tough choice.
Doing the right thing may be painful at the time, but there is a reason it is called the “right” thing.