Businesses have really and truly evolved into completely different structures over the years, the basics have changed, business mindsets have changed, even the business practices have altered over time, but there has been one thing that businesses have always prioritized, which is honesty and ethical actions being taken during business dealings. Ethics are such a broad term, and they take into account a wide range of activities on a day to day business, which, apart from the ‘work-related’ actions, also includes the general demeanor of an employee or worker as work. Ethics considers the standing of a person in terms of a decision, how much they take into account the good and the bad linked with that action, and whether it is the ‘right’ thing to do, for the majority number of people or not.
Honestly is probably one of the most important business traits that do exist, thus making the dilemma of whether, to be honest, or note during business dealings, a big debate. Where almost all businesses lie on the same page of this, there are still some who believe that some situations may require or call for the businesses to act in an unethical way, being dishonest about a certain action, as that seems to be the most beneficial decision for them. However, dishonesty is often done so for the selfish and greedy state of minds, which are stuck on feeding their selves and neglecting the rest of the society from the fruits of the same market as well. Honesty certainly pays off businesses in the long run, there are cases where businesses can make some profits by being dishonest with their customers, but such businesses cannot survive because ultimately, such businesses will lose the confidence of its customers. So, it is very important for businesses to be honest in their dealing.
Honesty in Business
Why is it Important?
Firstly, it influences the type of culture which exists within an organization, which is a very vague statement. However, when looked at in-depth, it can be seen that honesty builds the very foundation upon which the organization builds itself up, it defines what the business expects from its employees, it sets a precedent for them to follow, and also gives the incentive of being involved in different business dealings. It does not just take into account the way things are being done, but also how the product is sent into the market, what is said to the customers, how the company builds an image for themselves, all coming back to the kind of culture that is built. Business culture impacts the organization in a positive manner.
Secondly, having an honest type of business makes the business consistent in away. This is because the business owners also realize that no matter what happens, when it comes down to such a situation, they will have to choose the path which represents the honesty of the business, thus making their decisions pretty consistent. To make this simpler in terms of the workplace, even the employees know that there is a rulebook that everybody needs to abide by, and thus they too will be very careful and will act consistently, making the overall business practices of the organization a lot more consistent than they would be in an alternate situation.
Next, this creates quite an honorable and good image of the business in the minds of not just its customers but also the investors, since the business builds up an entire reputation of acting in an honest, genuine way in all their business practices, regardless of whatever the choice may be, or how honesty affects their business. Trust is a key factor in building a strong and big customer base. If the customers know that they can always rely on this business, what they offer, and trust that the business will always come through, the business will end up having an uncontrollable fan-base.
A good example of this may be tech companies like Apple or Samsung, which have built a level of trust in their consumers to the extent that if they increase the prices of their products by 300$ per se, the customers do not question the increase, and trust that the company is giving them something in return for the price increase. Some people do not even care about the increase because of their undying loyalty towards the business and what they manage to create for their consumers (Quain, 2020).
Furthermore, having an honest organization automatically means that the organization has set a similar precedent for its employees, expecting them to be just as honest in their dealings and workplace habits. If a company acts honestly, the employees will know and learn to act similarly because they will know that it is expected of them to do so. A good example of this in the workplace may be the performance evaluations of different employees being filled out with ‘honesty,’ would mean that it is constructive criticism while a motivator at the same time for the employees as it will show whatever makes them weak, what they need to fix, what is being appreciated, what stays and what goes, and would thus lead to improvement (Tracy, 2020).
Vice versa, a company satisfaction form the employees give the company a chance to improve in the aspects in which they are lacking and promote the ones that are already being appreciated. So, honesty works well for both ways, benefitting the organization as a whole as well as the customers (Tracy, 2020). An honest company will be able to attract employees, which will then help the company to serve the customers in a better way.
Moving on, being an honest business also means that the company is much less at risk of being exposed to doing something that is not considered right by the world. A good example of this is when Wells Fargo employees were exposed for making up fake customer reports for the industry analysts, and they had to suffer a huge fine in return, also losing face in front of their potential customers. Conducting the business practices in a way that it represents the business for what it truly is, rather than being dishonest and making it out to be something it is not, would mean that the company would lose the trust of both their consumers and the regulatory bodies in the state, and eventually, nobody will want to do business with them because of the bad reputation attached to the company (Hong, 2020).
How to Demonstrate Honesty in Business?
There are a few different ways in which businesses can remain honest in their actions and decisions, and be an honest organization overall, and as individuals as well. The first and simplest step to being honest is staying true to the word that a business has given to anyone, whether it is an investor, a random individual, a potential or existing customer. Being able to deliver down on what they said, they would automatically make the company a lot stronger in keeping their words and being honest. This also includes the fact that excuses should be avoided, and everything should be done to make sure what was promised is being delivered as well. Customers should never think that they are being deceived by the organization.
Next, if the business or an employee is scheduling something, they need to stick true with that commitment instead of forgetting about it or bailing out on it. However, it is also understood that with running such big businesses, people often tend to get late or get stuck elsewhere, in which case the businesses have to inform the waiting party of late arrival or apologize for missing the commitment in advance. This includes anything from meetings to legal matters to one on one handling with the company’s customers. However, if a business fails to do so, it is disrespectful to the other company and also gives the view that they are not very eager to work ethically and properly with them.
Businesses also need to remain focused on the key goals that they establish at the start of the organization itself. This includes what they planned on achieving WHILE keeping in mind the ethics and morals that they had established for themselves. Many times, when business gets sidetracked, and they start focusing more on getting profits rather than an improvement as an organization, they tend to resort to actions that may be dishonest or unethical for their consumers or the justice system of the country as well. This also means that being as honest as possible, companies need to give in their all, because that is what they promise their investors and consumers, instead of falling weak and giving up easy.
Surrounding the business with other honest businesses or other honest workers is also a great motivator for people. It keeps them on the right track, reminds them of how an honest way can help achieve great things, and it is not necessary to resort to dishonesty to achieve a goal for the business. This includes people who have spent years building a name for themselves based on how they work with extreme honesty and integrity and never lets their moral and ethical values down for short term goals, and rather they focus on longer-term goals that keep them loyal to their oath, to be honest always.
The next thing to do to be an honest business is even if there is a situation where something wrong was done, instead of trying to cover it up as an attempt to save face, the company should come out and be honest about it, showing the world that they are willing and ready to accept their mistakes which shows that honesty truly means a lot to them and they would do even what hurts their company, but not sacrifice their integrity. An example of this is when Samsung batteries in a product, was said to explode, and Samsung took back all those cellphone kits and accepted their fault, instead of blatantly lying to their customers to save face. That is probably why the company is still as successful as it is, having a huge customer base that it has, as the people believe what they sell (Arcement, 2020).
And the last and most important thing to do is set an example for the employees working under, as when the top officials of an organization start acting dirty and lying their way through their jobs, that is the standard that they set for everyone below them. The junior employees then start believing that the only way to be successful is by being dishonest. However, by acting lawfully, top executives can show their peers that the right way does prove to be fruitful eventually, and honesty is always better in the long run as it keeps one on the right track (“8 Simple Ways to Demonstrate Honesty and Integrity in Your Business “, 2020).
Why be Honest if Honesty Does Not Pay; The Dilemma
Eventually, the situation comes down to a point where businessmen are stuck in a situation where they cannot decide whether or not to be honest in their practices. More often, they are stuck in a bind where the option is either being dishonest and letting the business survive, or be dishonest and let the business die, and as much as businessmen try to defend themselves by saying the dishonesty is for ‘the greater good,’ there can never be a good enough explanation to justify an illegal or immoral action taken by a business (Eschenroeder, 2020). If an ethics committee is asked what should be done, they will always say that it is always suggested to let the company die, because even if it dies, it does with absolute integrity instead of winning in vain (Eschenroeder, 2020).
Some businesses, however, argue that how do they survive in a world or in a market where nobody is loyal or honest, everybody who is successful and powerful is so because they shook hands on a dirty deal and cheated their way to the top, one way or another. In such dilemmas, businesses often fall off the wagon too, as every business wants to survive, and if a business decides to be honest in a pool full of organizations who are cheating their way to success, the business will become bait for the rest of them, and will soon get eaten alive. So this is the dilemma the businesses have often had to fight off; morals or business survival (Bhide & Stevenson, 2020).
Dishonesty in Business
Causes of Dishonesty
Understanding the different reasons why there is a certain level of dishonesty in business helps the company get back on track and let go of all the different ways in which the company is suffering due to that dishonesty like lack of productivity, the synergy in teams, respect that exists of co-workers in a shared working place. Some examples of people being dishonest at work to include lying to bosses, making excuses for not being able to finish a task, leaking private information despite orders not to, and when such things become common in a business, it falls off track and loses sight of its actual goal. Thus businesses need to recognize what is causing the dishonesty so that they can eliminate those factors and lead the company into an honest place.
Firstly, the fact that some companies refuse to take the issue of dishonesty seriously is probably why the company sets a standard where lying is not a ‘dishonest’ act, rather a common thing that everyone starts indulging in as well. And since employees also know that they will not have to suffer the consequences of their dishonesty, they go ahead in do it. Rather, in some cases, businesses do not care about dishonesty to the extent that they start appreciating whatever they achieved by that dishonesty, regardless of whatever steps were taken in the way. This sets a bad example for employees as well since they continue to act in dishonest ways as they know they will be awarded for it.
Secondly, dishonesty becomes something that people resort too when the workplace morale becomes low, and employees feel discouraged at work as well. Low morale is somethings, also referred to with the idea of how dissatisfied the employees working in that company are. Thus whenever an employee is not happy with their job, they resort to acts of dishonesty like leaking information, resorting to shortcuts, and at times employees even start lying about the amount of work that they have done. This becomes such a negative cycle, as the company does not see the negative morale and attitude of its employees, and the situation eventually gets way out of hand, making it much harder to come back to normalcy.
Next, every company needs to have some sort of system of accountability to make sure even the employees know that their actions are being noted, nothing goes unchecked, and there is an existing record of every action which is being taken by the workers. This works for both the top executives and the lower-level employees, and the system should exist for both as well, so even the expenses and work of the high executives do not go unchecked and is under the surveillance.
And lastly, if companies are not paying their employees enough pays, they will resort to actions that are not quite honest, like stealing from work or even selling off private information. And this also starts happening when the company is not appreciating the employee or is not giving them any sort of encouragement of growth and improvement in the future, which may improve their financial position in the country (Root III, 2020).
Consequences of Dishonesty
Dishonesty always has negative consequences that businesses have to deal with at one point or another. The biggest and initial most issue that arise is that since the entire concept of dishonesty exists on the very idea that a false persona is being created, which is then being followed, so business as a whole is not acting like their true self, rather somebody that they would WANT to be, making it different for the business to determine where to draw a line between honesty and dishonesty. It often leads to psychological issues as well, as people often become confused as individuals when they cannot see honesty in any of their actions.
Similarly, a single lie needs a handful of other lies to cover up the initial one. Thus the entire process becomes quite redundant and tiring to keep track of. The complexity of the level of dishonesty often ends up in a situation where even the person themselves forget what they lied about, or what lie they told. This leads to an entire web of lies, which, if comes breaking down, may break down the entire business along with it as well. There needs to be a justification for everything, every lie, a story behind everything, so the lies remain uncovered. However, sometimes even the best of dishonest people, even experts, slip and leave details out, which can lead to the act being pulled out into the open (Threlfall, 2020).
Trust is something that is built by businesses when they remain honest in their practices. However, the thing with trust is that once it is broken by a business, nobody would ever be willing to trust it again, or even give them another chance. Nowadays, the market conditions are so volatile that the slightest of issues and the entire customer base decides to switch their preferences. Similarly, even investors are so careful with who they give their money to that they too remain quite wary of who to trust and who to choose for the investment. Being dishonest would break the trust of all the stakeholders of the business, and would lead to a situation where it becomes beyond repair in most cases (“Honesty and Truth: A Practitioner’s Dilemma,” 2020). Being dishonest is never beneficial for the company since the company will not be able to attract people for recruitment and also the company will not be able to retain the employees, and most importantly, there will be customers who will not be satisfied with the services and products that are offered by the organization.
The end of this is that lies and dishonesty, at any level, start eroding the entire business and what it stands for in the business community. The entire business relies on lies, dishonesty, unfair business practices, so when the foundation is so weak, how is the business supposed to build up. This is exceptionally bad when the reputation of that company comes under jeopardy, and everyone labels the business as being dishonest, nobody wants to work with them. This eventually erodes the business of the place it once helps in the marker. This tends to get so bad that not just investors and customers, but even the employees themselves do not want to be involved in a company with such a bad reputation (“5 Real Consequences of Dishonesty at the Workplace”, 2020).
How to End Dishonesty
There are a few different steps that the business can take to reduce the level of dishonesty as a working place. Firstly, businesses need to make sure that their employees are happy and satisfied with their work environment. This does not just include the working conditions but also the amount of money they are paid, the benefits they get, and the level of appreciation for the work they do for the business. If the employees are happy with their working environment, they will stay more committed to being honest towards the company.
The next thing is to create a system and structure which punishes the act of dishonesty. Employees should know that there are consequences to every bad decision, especially the fact that someone was dishonest. So the company should create a level of accountability in its employees so that employees refrain from all dishonest acts. They can also prove this by example and show other employees by firing or demoting someone who acted dishonestly in matters of seriousness. This will also create a sense of righteousness in the employees.
The debate always lies in the fact that so many businesses and businessmen have succeeded in the field because they acted dishonestly. They were able to reach success with shortcuts and compete with some of the top companies in the same field. However, what people fail to see are the consequences that such businesses have to suffer behind the scenes. Such businesses do not just suffer from the weak trust from investors and customers but are also labeled as dishonest, and thus nobody chooses to go into business with them (Dimoff, 2020). Furthermore, as individuals, those being dishonest start going through personal issues like depression and low morale, as they do not even remember where the line between right and wrong lies, and their entire moral compass in terms of their business, is upset, which upsets their mental well-being as well.
- “5 Real Consequences of Dishonesty at the Workplace”. (2020). Workplace Ethics Advice. https://www.workplaceethicsadvice.com/2018/08/5-real-consequences-of-dishonesty-at-the-workplace.html.
- “8 Simple Ways to Demonstrate Honesty and Integrity in Your Business”. (2020). Platinum Electricians. https://www.platinumelectricians.com.au/blog/8-simple-ways-demonstrate-honesty-integrity-business/.
- Arcement, B. (2020). Why honesty and ethics are the two most powerful leadership traits. Biz Journals. https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/growth-strategies/2015/09/honesty-and-ethics-most-powerful-traits.html.
- Bhide, A., & Stevenson, H. (2020). Why Be Honest If Honesty Doesn’t Pay. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/1990/09/why-be-honest-if-honesty-doesnt-pay.
- Dimoff, T. (2020). 5 Ways to End Workplace Dishonesty. Cose. https://www.cose.org/en/Mind-Your-Business/HR/5-Ways-to-End-Workplace-Dishonesty.
- Eschenroeder, K. (2020). Honesty IS the Best Policy in Business (Usually). StartupBros. https://startupbros.com/honesty-is-the-best-policy-in-business/.
- “Honesty and Truth: A Practitioner’s Dilemma”. (2020). Progressions. http://progressions.prssa.org/index.php/2013/03/12/honesty-and-truth-a-practitioners-dilemma/.
- Hong, S. (2020). The Importance of Honesty at Work. Thrive Global. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-importance-of-honesty-at-work/.
- Quain, S. (2020). Why Is Honesty Important in a Business?. Small Business – Chron. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/honesty-important-business-22624.html#:~:text=Honesty%20is%20a%20key%20characteristic,trust%20in%20customers%20and%20prospects.
- Root III, G. (2020). What Are the Causes of Dishonesty in the Workplace?. Small Business – Chron. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/causes-dishonesty-workplace-13568.html#:~:text=Dishonesty%20in%20the%20workplace%20includes,in%20productivity%20and%20lower%20morale.
- Threlfall, D. (2020). Four Ways that Dishonesty Is Holding You Back in Business. Teamgantt. https://www.teamgantt.com/blog/four-ways-that-dishonesty-is-holding-you-back-in-business.
- Tracy, B. (2020). The Importance Of Honesty And Integrity In Business. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/282957.