Wednesday, August 02, 2006

U.S. Workers Concerned About Corporate Ethics

Why did 82% of surveyed workers say they would take a lesser paying job to work at an ethical business? Why do 94% of U.S. workers say it is critical or important that their employer be ethical? What American business practices are sending the message that ethics are optional? Otherwise why would these numbers be so widespread?

Dr. Edwards W. Deming, the famed leadership guru, said “a mangers job is to improve the system”. That means getting the parts of the system to work together optimally on behalf of the customer. The ethics numbers indicate one of two things. People are behaving unethically with each other within the business or the company is treating its customers in an untoward manner.

Dr. Deming also said “we are being ruined by the best efforts of people who are doing the wrong things”. Most of those poor practices fall in management’s realm. Any pay system that drives internal competition produces suboptimal behavior and eventually ruin. Most stock options, bonuses and pay for performance fall into this category.

Short term thinking, ranking people, incentive pay, arbitrary numerical goals, management by results, buying at the lowest bid, and delegating quality to a group all contribute to suboptimization or losses to the organization. Most of these practices are widespread in American business, education and government.

The management guru spoke to how people achieve numerical goals. They can use redefinition of term or distortion and faking. Might these be the practices that concern American workers.

In the ever perverse world of the Bush administration, it more than achieved its target of spending 23% of the federal budget with “small businesses”. It did so by contracting with large companies and then checking the small enterprise box on the federal form. The small companies include:

The Associated Press, The New York Times Co., USA Today International Corp., Bloomberg L.P. and the Public Broadcasting Service

Also classified as small were ExxonMobil and Microsoft Corp. Yes, only in some alternate reality are these behemoths considered small companies. Is that where our President lives?

The survey results combined with real world stories reveal unethical business practices to be commonplace in America. It is hard to believe Western values will sell over the people in the Middle East in light of these findings. If they do win out, the bar is set incredibly low.

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