That simple question is the beginning of a series of check and balances that help us maintain our integrity and remain above reproach.
It could also be the beginning of a very slippery slope which leads you to ethical decay, a loss of credibility and loss of your ability to lead.
It all depends on how you answer it. Let’s be clear about this, it doesn’t depend on the answer, it depends on how you answer it.
A “yes” or “no” stated with conviction solidly answers the question and it’s likely that ends your little self-debate right then and there. Your conviction comes from a set of closely held principles that are firm and not open for discussion or debate. (These principles determine who you really are, at your core, when no one is looking)
The problems start when you answer the question with a hem and a haw. Throw in a couple of “well, maybe if” and you are well on your way to making a compromised decision that very well could lead to an ethical lapse.
Here’s the deal; if you think something might be unethical it almost certainly is unethical. Your core principles know it, they are telling you and for some reason (likely personal or financial benefit) you’re trying to convince yourself that your principles are wrong. They are not wrong.
So maybe you tell yourself “just this once” or “everybody else is doing it” or some other self justifying silly thing. What your principles will tell you however is that there is no such thing as “just this once” because you either have ethics all the time, every time, or you have no ethics at all.
You know that’s true and so does everyone else.
Here’s what you may not realize: once your ethics can be called into question, every single thing you say and do can be called into question. Your motives for doing everything you do can be called into question. People lose trust in those whose motives are murky.
Without trust relationships wither. Without a relationship there is no opportunity for leadership.
Is this ethical? That’s a great question, make sure you know where the answer came from.