& Fortune: Bruce Weinstein
Bankruptcy, re-gifting and other moral
WorldCom. Martha Stewart.
Everywhere you look these days,
it seems that ethics, in all matters financial, have gone up in the smoke of the
$100 cigars that certain fat cats enjoy as they dream up new ways to raid our
pension funds and claw their way to unspeakable fortunes.
We mere mortals are following these bad examples
every time we knowingly allow cashiers to give us too much change, or claim for
ourselves that which someone else has misplaced.
Weinstein, known as "The Ethics Guy" to those who enjoy his insights
on CNN's "Ask the Ethics Guy" and in his weekly Knight-Ridder/Tribune
syndicated column, is hoping to beam a little ray of hope into the money-grubbing
behavior that hangs like smog over America today.
his latest book, "Life Principles: Feeling Good by Doing Good," Weinstein
even has the audacity to suggest that living and acting ethically is not only
the road to true personal happiness but is unfailingly the best business move
Bankrate hooked up with The Ethics Guy to see
where he could possibly have gotten such a radical idea.
Today, if we are to judge by the headlines, ethics and money rarely meet.
But in "Life Principles," you make a strong case that doing the right
thing is also the best business decision. How so?
Weinstein: The thing that businesses covet the most -- positive word-of-mouth
-- is achieved and maintained only when a client trusts you to take their interests
seriously. There's an organization called Word of Mouth Marketing Association,
or WOMMA, whose goal is to help members cultivate this elusive, but invaluable,
commodity. The head of WOMMA, Andy Sernovitz, recently told Variety magazine,
"The idea of word-of-mouth is very Zen. You put the idea out there, let go,
and if people like you and trust you, they'll spread the word." In other
words, developing and maintaining trust both honors the integrity of the businessperson-client
relationship and, in the long run, is good for business.
We've all found ourselves on the horns of an ethical dilemma when, say,
the waiter left a bottle of expensive wine off our bill or the cashier gave us
change for a 20 instead of a 10. Our wallet votes one way, our conscience another.
Who should we listen to?
It comes down to how we answer a fundamental question: What kind of life
do we want to live? We can take the low road and think primarily or exclusively
about our own needs and desires. We can steal when no one is looking, cheat whenever
we are able, lie when it is convenient, or break promises when something better
comes along. We can resolve conflict with force rather than persuasion because,
in the short run at least, it is always possible to conquer with violence, but
peaceable solutions take time and effort.
Or we can reacquaint
ourselves with five fundamental ethical principles, or what I call "life
- Do no harm
- Respect others
- Be fair