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Creating and following values statement can turn tide for businesses

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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One of the casualties of our politically correct culture is judgment and the consequence has been the weakening if not loss of business ethics. When those in leadership roles fear making discernments about the behaviors of others, chaos begins to reign. The justification of cheating as cited in last week’s column reflects that chaos.

Additionally, individuals begin to question their own ethics:

• Should I say something?

• Should I not say something?

• What will happen if I do say something?

• Will I be sued?

• Will I be fired?

Within small businesses, one of the best ways to encourage positive business ethics is the construction of a values statement. Simply speaking, a values statement describes the acceptable behaviors to be demonstrated by all 24/7. This statement becomes the rudder for the small business. Once there is buy-in from all shareholders including employees, vendors, customers and the community, then the next step is enforcement.

Without leadership enforcing the values statement, chaos, that being undesirable, negative behaviors, will become acceptable. When non-enforcement happens, the values statement then becomes more of “show” and less about “do.” One most obvious enforcement is to stop all talk at the water cooler or gossiping.

Anyone who engages in gossiping must be addressed, respectfully, and told to cease such conversations. The first conversation is a friendly reminder and then if the behavior continues this now becomes a disciplinary action and ultimately cause for termination.

Other areas of enforcement include the processes for accepting new business. Some larger firms including government organizations place a value of any gifts received by those soliciting their business. Usually gifts that have a value greater than $25 (lunch or dinner excluded) are considered to be inappropriate and potentially bordering on unethical by the acceptance of those gifts.

Now all these suggestions are based upon executive leadership being ethical and that is sometimes the problem. Organizations do not make people unethical. People make decisions to be unethical for fear of losing their jobs to justification that everyone else engages in unethical behaviors.

More than 2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus recognized the importance of ethics when he penned these words: “A man’s character is his fate.”

In other words, we choose to be ethical or not ethical and that choice sometimes is not an easy one especially in business where bills must be paid and customers must be satisfied.

P.S. Shout Out: As today is Veteran’s Day, the Town of Schererville will hold a Veteran’s Day program at 6:30pm outside the Schererville Police Department and the Valparaiso Noon Rotary Club will continue with their now 15-year tradition of honoring local veterans. May I extend my most sincere appreciation to all veterans as a daughter, wife, niece, cousin, stepmother and friend of Army, Marines, National Guard, Navy and Air Force branches of military service.



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