Not a zero sum game

As a professional in the corporate world, we have come across instances where someone has crossed the line of ethical action. The cue for most who act unethically is the awareness of a commonly held belief that ‘one needs to be unethical sometimes in the corporate world to get ones job done.’ When a young professional enters the work-life phase, he/she is often told by peers that it is ok to break a rule or two sometimes. This is more pronounced among sales professionals who are encouraged to bribe or entertain prospective clients to clinch deals.

I believe otherwise. In my 7 years as a sales professional, I have not bribed anyone to get a deal. This does not mean that all prospects/clients gave me business just on the merit of the product/service. There have been a few lost deals, because a competitor unethically lured the client. But even after losing those deals and clients, I noticed that I could still get enough business to meet my targets by working ethically and keeping a clean conscience. Not being unethical involves a lot of hard work. If you are ready for it then you CAN be successful. The satisfaction of being successful without resorting to such under-the-table dealings is immense.

There are two deterrents to doing something unethical – a) your own conscience, b) getting pulled up or fired from your job.
The latter is the one that acts as a stronger deterrent, and justifiably so. We have to build careers and a single act of fraud/mal-practice can ruin a lifetime of good work or nip a great professional’s career in the bud. Companies are very strict about ethics in business. Although many companies overlook a few dishonorable practices here and there, if it gets reported it becomes a serious offense. In these days of corporate jealousy, the danger of someone spying and reporting your acts are very high. Enough reason to act straight, I think.

In every office, we find someone who fudges data to take ownership of a successful outcome for which they have not put in any effort. Can this be called ethical? It is not completely unethical as long as you are not harming someone. For e.g, your predecessor worked on a deal that came through after he/she left the company. You include that in your targets (without bragging about it, of course). This does not harm your predecessor in any way as he / she has quit the firm. Such an act, although not encouraged, is tolerable. But you cannot steal credit for the work done by a co-worker or misrepresent figures to further your interests.

Every once in a while, I ask the successful professionals to narrate some of their biggest achievements and how they went about achieving it. Almost all the time, their stories do not involve a single dishonorable action. Being smart is not about taking a short-cut but finding the shortest STRAIGHT path.

Written by Anup Menon, alumnus of Amrita School of Business. Anup is currently working as Senior Manager, Business Development – Professional Staffing at Randstad India