What’s Your Code Of Ethics?

Ethics decisionsBruce Weinstein, in a Business Week column, suggests that along with energy, health, technology and other “Czars,” we need an Ethics Czar. What’s more, he suggests that that Ethics Czar should be you.

I’ve written a few times in the past couple of months about ethics in social media. Whether it’s ghost blogging, so-called “experts” coming out of the woodwork, Wikipedia entries, astro-turfing (here’s another recent example) or shameful “viral” strategies, I take a pretty dim view of shady online practices. So, this post resonated for me.

Weinstein suggests six parts to a code of ethical conduct:

  • Lead by example (do the right thing, be honest, own up when you screw up);
  • Praise generously (tell people when they’re doing a good job);
  • Criticize to build up, not break down (constructive criticism);
  • Be kind, unwind (relax on a regular basis);
  • Punish fairly (treat people equally);
  • If it is to be, it’s up to thee (take action when you see things that are wrong).

Code of Ethics for the Web

These principles translate nicely to the web – follow them and help to make your corner of the Internet a better place:

  1. Lead by example: Rule #1 – use common sense. If you wouldn’t want to see your tactics in the newspaper, reconsider whether they’re the right thing to do.
  2. Praise generously: The web is built on links. If you like something, say so and link to them. Tell people when you like what they write. Comment, link and contribute.
  3. Criticize to build up: A major part of our blogging policy at work is “do no harm.” That doesn’t mean we can’t criticize; however it does mean we should do it for the right reasons. When you criticize, do it from a constructive angle – offer tips to improve, or the other side to the argument. Don’t just shoot things down for the sake of it.
  4. Be kind, unwind: This is one principle at which I fail. Take time away from the stress of work, both online and offline. You’ll find that you’ll come back re-energized (or so I’ve heard).
  5. Punish fairly: As Weinstein noted, “one measure of good managers is the extent to which anger influences the way they punish employees.” If you’re angry, take a breath. Think it through.
  6. If it is to be, it’s up to thee: If you see something unethical, call it out… constructively.

What would you change?

(Image credit: getentrepreneurial.com)

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  • Good points here. + Ethics is a personal thing. It’s connected to your core values. What you consider ethical based on your core values.

  • In regards to number’s 3 & 5, I find it useful to wait a few hours (or even a full day) before posting something after you write it. Granted, it’s REALLY tempting to post something right away, thus the instant gratification of blogging, but I find if you sit on it for a bit two things happen: (1) you remove unchecked scorn/praise, and (2) you usually go back and elaborate/improve on the post.

  • Thanks for what’s quickly becoming an indispensible series of posts on ethics, Dave. I think one of the fundamental problems people have in understanding ethics, not just online but in general, is that ethical does not equal legal and vice versa. Don’t just ask yourself if you CAN do something, ask if you SHOULD. Conflict of interest is a good example. While not a matter of illegal or not, most people can (sometimes with some prodding) understand what constitutes an actual conflict of interest. However, the number of people who understand the dangers of APPARENT conflicts is depressingly less.

  • Great theme to take up Dave, and timely! All excellent points – but I get the feeling everyone reading this already knows right from wrong. The problem is how to reach those who don’t, or don’t care. I think the first point is the most helpful- and good on you for doing that.

  • KateNonymous

    I’m pro-ethics but anti-czars. Seriously, the use of that term indicates a lack of historical knowledge (and I’m not pointing fingers at you, Dave; that term has had this weird new usage for a while–but why did anyone pick it to begin with?).

    Plus even with the new usage, it seems to me that our “czars” have responsibility but a lack of authority that makes it particularly difficult to accomplish nebulous tasks.

  • Thank you for building this post around my BusinessWeek.com article, Dave. I really like how you’ve adapted my six rules to the world of social media. Well done!

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  • I enjoyed your article. Here is our take on ethics principles:

    1. Submit To A Higher Authority
    2. Live With Purpose
    3. Interact With Integrity
    4. Fulfill Your Roles With Time For Renewal
    5. Care About People
    6. Preserve The Sanctity Of Life And Be Improvement And Healing Oriented
    7. Be Loyal
    8. Be A Good Steward
    9. Be Honest
    10. Be Quietly Confident

    This is taken from our original post at http://www.cornerstoneethics.org/the-10-ethics-training-program/

    Thanks.