At our last meeting, which was also our most intimate grouping of professionals, John Hunt of WOLF-AM, and a member of PCA, led the group in discussing the topic of ethics... and it turns out that even in business we tend to view it differently than in our personal lives. It's a topic that we previously discussed in 2012, so it was good to revisit it.
On our PCA website we have a Code of Ethics that's been a standard for the organization since it was formed in 1995. It's the most visited page on the site, which means we must be touching upon some beliefs and thoughts of professionals all across the country.
As the conversation began, we dealt with the issue of what should be done when we see that clients we're working with aren't quite following the rules, sometimes on the verge of illegal behavior. A few members felt that we should be turning in our clients, while others felt that not only wasn't their responsibility but could be damaging to their long term careers. This led to a discussion of degrees of illegality, intent, and what roles consultants either should or could play in minimizing errors or having to come to grips with taking other actions.
One of our members talked about having to drop a long time client because he'd always known part of what the client was doing was inherently dishonest, but it had never touched his business until recent changes in tax preparer rules. Suddenly he realized he would have direct liability and rather than having to become an agent of the government as far as being an informant he decided to step away. A few other members talked about having to do the same type of thing, which shows that all of our members had personal ethics that superseded the sometimes dodgy world of business ethics.
Another member talked about providing something for a client, only to have that client cancel the contract and take that proposal to someone else, who did it almost word for word. He found his way of confronting both the client & the other contractor for their lack of ethics, but learned a valuable lesson in the process. Once again, a number of our members had suffered similar events over the course of doing business, and it left all of us just a little less trusting but infinitely wiser.
What we all walked away with was the reality that even if one has died and true personal ethics, sometimes when it comes to business you're going to be challenged between the two ideas of doing what's necessary versus doing what's right, but there's a lot of gray area in the middle. What will you do for money? At what point do you realize you have to end your association, if any? What's your responsibility to the greater good versus your responsibility to yourself, your livelihood and family?
These aren't always easy questions, but I feel comforted that our members are all on the right path.