The greatest ethical test that we’re ever going to face is the treatment of those who are at our mercy – Lyn White
Love is a very powerful word. It is also misunderstood. Applying it to a business context may not make sense. Perhaps it will when you understand what the term actually means.
Ethics is loving others like you would love yourself. In this context, love is not sexual intercourse or erotic interaction. It is best understood as charity. The famous “love chapter” quoted by many from the Christian Bible was originally written in Greek. The first English translations rendered the text as charity, not love.. Exercising charity is the best way to understand how a business operates in love.
That does not mean business have to give away their profit.
Being charitable means businesses (people) treat their customers in the same way they want their customers to treat them.
It’s called the Golden Rule.
And because there is no such thing as business ethics and there is no difference between business and personal relationships, the Golden Rule is adhered to by good businesses.
Coming to grips with an appropriate understanding of love is important. Many ethical dilemmas are resolved straight-away. Not only between business and customer but also between workers within an organization.
Let me illustrate through someone we will refer to as Fred.
Fred took on a new position with a corporation. He was assigned to work under a female manager. Their synergy produced amazing results for the company. They were connected on so many levels that Fred began to wonder if their connection was more than just work related. After all, they had spent time together outside of the office working on their projects, including restaurants, workshops, and even social activities.
That is when he crossed the line.
Misunderstanding feelings of compatibility and shared values, Fred asked his manager out on a date. She flatly rejected him and their working relationship came to an end. Confused and dejected, he came to me for counsel. Fred learned he crossed an ethical boundary. He subconsciously assumed a charitable working relationship was one and the same as a having a soul mate.
Understanding love as charity helps to clarify relationships. It also increases our responsibility.
Charity, in the literal sense of the word, is a disposition of heart which inclines a person to think favorably of others. That is why it is associated with benevolence and good will. In a business context, that means you treat all customers fairly whether you like them or not. In many ways business is a better example to individuals on this principle.
It also means business has a responsibility to ensure their products and services genuinely help others. It moderates false claims and exaggerated benefits.
Many times people in their personal lives exercise prejudice. Yet the same person, if they were in business for themselves, would be willing to accept money from those they look down their noses at in their personal life. The hypocrisy reveals what is truly valued. People are not as prejudiced as they pretend.
Equal treatment of your fellow human being is the basis of a just society. That point is so embedded into our psyche that ethical behavior casts its net to include human treatment of animals and the planet itself. A 3,000 year old proverb from the Middle East testifies: “a good man regards the life of his cattle.”
Surely if we can understand the responsibility to treat animals with respect, we can treat our fellow human beings with charity? Including those we don’t like?
Challenge: Ethics is viewing others with equal respect. Am I hypocritical with prejudicial behavior?