I was reading the news about Baseball legend Roger Clemens being acquitted of lying to Congress and I started to think about professional ethics. Sports are not the only place where cheaters don’t prosper. There has been a lot of corporate scandal recently in the news, from the Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson resigning after it was found he lied on his resume to Richard Schulze resigning as CEO of Best Buy for turning a blind eye to an inappropriate office affair between a senior executive and a subordinate.
In business, ethics are everything. So if you are looking to get ahead or move on, you need to make sure your reputation is squeaky clean, especially online. Anything discoverable on the Web or elsewhere can come back to haunt you.
What steps can you take to maintain a clean record? They’re pretty simple. Here’s what Deborah Jacobs of Forbes recommends:
1. Remain trustworthy. You need to be reliable so others can rely on you. If you can prove to senior management and your coworkers that you are trustworthy, then they will trust you because they know they won’t have to look over your shoulder or police your conduct. Especially in senior positions, where if something goes wrong it could impact the company’s performance, you want someone who knows right from wrong and who can be trusted to report wrongdoing to the board or the appropriate senior managers.
2. Stay beyond reproach. Follow your own code of ethics and do the next right thing, even if you believe that course of action may not be what others want. If you can be true to yourself, no one can question your motives.
3. It’s okay to say “no”. If your boss asks you to do something you feel is wrong you have a right to say no, or even to disagree on gray areas. As Jacobs points out, saying “yes” to the boss all the time elevates that manager go “deity status”, and that’s when weaknesses are eclipsed by power and influence. Retain your right to disagree.
4. Watch your back. We live in a world of open data exchange, which means transparency. If you do something that could come back to haunt you, it probably will. Be honest and admit when you make a mistake so someone doesn’t have to point an accusing finger.
5. Project your image. Whether in business affairs or online, maintain a profile that projects integrity. Think about how others perceive you and your actions. Do you tend to hide or are you forthcoming? Knowing how the world perceives you will help you maintain your integrity.
In the age of the Internet your life is an open book. Be careful what your history says about you because you can be sure that someone will read it.