What are Ethics?

Just do the right thing.” —Joseph N. Gurri, M.D.

My father’s view of ethics was simple, not easy. When the Gurri siblings faced a dilemma, he asked us about what happened. He listened to our story of what happened, what we did, and what we planned to do. Annoyingly, he always asked what us to identify our role in any “arroz con mango” (mess). All leaders need a go-to coach, in good times and bad.

Ethics are society’s effort to understand the effects of morality and moral standards on our conduct. Ethics provide a way to know what the “right thing” to do is when it counts the most. How to do it is another matter.

Companies committed to the highest standards of conduct and ethics produce superior results. A foundational business process essential for success is to strive for:

  • Productivity
  • Profits
  • Legal compliance
  • Ethics management
  • Workplace satisfaction

While virtue is no guarantee of success for employees, supervisors and managers, it is a necessary foundation. A strong ethical foundation is especially important for leaders who impact workplace and community cultures. What we say and don’t say, do and don’t do, and how we act matters. Supervisors and managers motivate, innovate, and offer perspective to individuals and organizations, creating ethical strategies for achieving excellence. Ethical leadership strengthens the bottom line, keeping our workplace economy strong. 

The Law

Being ethical is not the same as following the law. The law sets the lowest common expectation for agreed-upon behavior. Ethics are the highest level of expectation and require ongoing thought and practice. Striving for shared ethical principles that honor the law is the solution.

  • What is illegal?
  • What is unethical? 

Ask yourself: 

  • What’s the difference between ethics and the law?
  • What laws are relevant for your profession?
  • What ethical codes are relevant for your profession?