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)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.