Recognizing Responsibility by Exploring Ethics by Guest Blogger Selena JefferiesPosted: March 16, 2015
Read any news feed regarding current issues in business, money and finance, and you can see we are faced with a wave of white collar crime, self-dealing corporate executives, accounting scandals, financial crisis and corporate bailouts. Many corporate executives navigate business decisions like a game where anything goes and corporate greed takes over. While businesses need to be profitable to continue in existence, does this have to be at the expense of social and environmental responsibility?
There is no shortage of laws in the United State established to discourage business activity and behavior that society has deemed harmful. But, organizations have the power and responsibility to establish their own self-regulation by implementing an effective ethics program. The challenge is navigating through the gray areas where actions that aren’t illegal may still be unethical. Ethics education and implementation of a successful ethics program is crucial to recognizing ethical responsibility. Ethics education is not about learning right or wrong or even determining correct ethical action, but focuses to help employees make more informed business decisions, take responsibility and understand the effects of those decisions.
Ethics programs endeavor to identify ethical dilemmas, discussing rationale for decision alternatives, potential outcomes, legal issues and overall social responsibility. Organizations that develop and implement an ethics program help guide appropriate conduct, standards of behavior and accountability. This works with something as simple as a code of ethics. The code provides a basis for shared committed values and increases accountability by setting expectations. The code of ethics could be simply stated to convey general compliance with fundamental principles or can encompass rules based to address specific situations.
The bottom line is that organizations are responsible for preventing legal violations and unethical conduct of its employees. Companies need leaders who are committed to doing the right thing and set the tone for the entire group. Employee training in ethics awareness and preparation is vital in keeping employees engaged to be on the same page regarding the organizations ethics standards and beliefs.
Avoiding legal problems, fines and criminal prosecution are obvious benefits of companies behaving responsibly, but most of all employees and customers will recognize good conduct by remaining loyal. The company’s reputation will remain intact, and they will enjoy peace of mind knowing they are one of the good guys.
Selena Jefferies, CPA, is an Instructor of Accounting at Texas A&M University – Texarkana. Her background includes working as an audit manager in public accounting for 15 years, and then made the change into academia as a full-time faculty member of the University in 2012. She continues to practice as a professional accounting consultant for small businesses.
Selena has been an item writer for the Uniform CPA exam accepted by the AICPA for exam content. She received the Teaching Excellence Award from the Texas A&M University system in 2010. She currently serves on the TSCPA Board of Directors, TSCPA Ethics Committee and has held a variety other professional volunteer positions including President of the Texarkana Chapter of CPAs.
Selena is also a professional musician who performs in a band with her husband, Bryan, and helps run their family photography and video production business with their two daughters, Kayla and Kara.