Employment Etiquette & Standards of Morality
Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. – Potter Stewart from http://www.brainyquote.com
Google defines ETHICS as “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.”
For more detail and an analysis of the “essential questions” on ETHICS, check out the blog “What is Ethics?” from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/what-is-ethics/.
From another perspective, according to Investopedia, “BUSINESS ETHICS is the study of proper business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial issues, such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibilities.” The full article can be read at http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/business-ethics.asp.
Declining Standards of Behavior?
Jean Twenge, the author of the 2006 book Generation Me, considers Millennials (born between 1977 and 1994), along with younger members of Generation X, to be part of what she calls “Generation Me,” possessing a preponderance of the traits of confidence and tolerance, but also a strong sense of entitlement and narcissism. Wikipedia identifies the (older) “Me” generation in the United States, referring to “the baby boomer generation and the self-involved qualities that some people associated with it.”
According to Psychology Today in a blog-post The Truth About Lying by Allison Kornet (https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199705/the-truth-about-lying), “Deception is rampant—and sometimes we tell the biggest lies to those we love most.”
If, as the cliché has it, the 1980s was the decade of greed, then the quintessential sin of the 1990s might just have been lying. After all, think of the accusations of deceit leveled at politicians like Bob Packwood, Marion Barry, Dan Rostenkowski, Newt Gingrich, and Bill Clinton.
Regardless of these labels of societal trends, “generalizations about the generations,” and reflections on current social values and conscience in the media, how do you come to terms with the recent headlines of inconsistent (or “inconvenient”) ethics and morality?
- State-sponsored doping of Russian athletes
- Volkswagen emission cheating
- Students saying, “If we don’t get caught” or “If they don’t find out,” it’s OK.
- The rise of online plagiarism-checking programs such as turnitin.com.
- The cynicism about “ethics in advertising: do we expect lies?”
And yet, some of us still recite the Boy Scouts oath (“honesty”), “swear to tell the truth” (on a bible) in a court of law, and strive to maintain an atmosphere of honesty in the workplace (see http://www.businessinsider.com/3-essential-rules-to-workplace-honesty-2013-1 and http://smallbusiness.chron.com/create-atmosphere-honesty-workplace-10098.html).
So, are we “losing” our moral compass? Does “our word” mean anything? Do we take the easy way out and “fake a little” here and “wink a little” there? Is it affecting the way we interact with each other, in educational institutions, the marketplace, family life, and even presenting ourselves to be hired for a job?
Blame it on upbringing? Past experience? Perhaps it is safe to say one’s personal judgment may be affected by ethics. If a member of your family has a handicap parking placard, is it ever used when the handicapped individual is not riding in the car? In terms of judgment and feelings of entitlement, it is probably ill-advised to bring up anything to do with driving… fighting over parking places, cutting off someone, tooting horns at slow drivers, etc. Besides, who actually ever comes to a complete stop at a stop sign?
In the pre-employment planning stages, it is essential for you to make a honest personal and professional assessment, prepare to represent yourself accurately at interviews and on your resume and e-portfolio, and model ethical personal branding. I would agree that “you cannot ‘fib’ and claim you are a ‘master’ of everything,” but if you are certified to teach music in grades K-12, not just band, or general music, or choir, or strings… you should state your proficiency to teach “the whole kit and caboodle.” At employment screenings, it’s more important to show you have learned the necessary 21st Century skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communications, creativity, and flexibility/adaptability… rather than whether you can play Paganini on the violin, sing a high “A,” improvise modern jazz styles, or piano accompany a musical production.
Stretching Things a Bit?
The concept of a “stretched resume” is detailed online by “Employee’s Ethics: Getting a Job, Getting a Promotion, Leaving,” Chapter 6 from the book Business Ethics. The author tells the true story of Robert Irvine, who used to host the Food Network’s popular Dinner: Impossible. He was fired when he was caught “lying” or providing gross exaggerations on his resume. You should read the interesting full account at this site: http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/business-ethics/s10-employee-s-ethics-getting-a-jo.html.
The kind of resume misrepresentations are categorized as the following:
- False credentials
- False experience
- Embellished experience
- False chronology
- False references
The best quote from this reference suggests that the outcome of resume misrepresentation is not worth the chances you would take if/when you are caught:
Ethical egoism means your moral responsibility is to act in your own interest no matter what that may require. This provides a license for outright résumé invention… But, as is always the case with egoism, the question must be asked whether job seekers really serve their own interests when they claim things that may later be revealed to be false or when they land jobs they later won’t be able to perform because their qualifications were fake.
This source led me to the webpage http://fakeresume.com/ (aptly named) selling the book Fake Resume: The Machiavellian Guide to Getting a Job by Max Stirner (something I am not promoting!) You can peruse a segment of his work, “Five Reasons Why You Must Lie on Your Resume To Get a Job Today” at http://fakeresume.com/five-reasons-why-you-must-lie-on-your-resume.pdf. This excerpt is from his “Everyone Lies on Their Resume” section of his website:
The firm Hire Right released some interesting statistics that show how rampant resume fraud is in the United States. The company’s numbers show that 80 percent of all resumes are misleading. They also show that 20 percent state fraudulent degrees and 30 percent show altered employment dates. As if those numbers are not shocking enough, 40 percent have inflated salary claims and 30 percent have inaccurate job descriptions. Furthermore, the study shows 25 percent of people listing companies that no longer exist, and 27 percent giving falsified references; and these are only the people they have caught!
Guides to Employment Ethics
Regardless of what others do or say they do, marketing exaggeration and even falsehoods will not be in your best interest.
Richard Fein, Director of Career Management, Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts-Amherst via Monstertrak.com wrote an excellent career guide on this subject: “Etiquette and Ethics in Your Job Search. What Are They and Why Should You Care?” Download the following to review the definitions, distinctions, and job search scenarios involving the terms “etiquette” and “ethics.” http://www.bu.edu/hospitality/files/pdf/ETIQUETTEANDETHICSINYOURJOBSEARCH1.pdf.
Another excellent resource is the “Job Search Ethics Brochure” from the University of Pennsylvania: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/files/Job_Search_Ethics_Brochure.pdf. In this thoughtful publication, additional terms are defined, such as “professional,” “integrity,” and “honor.”
In addition, it should be “worth your while” to access some of the Franklin College’s “Helpful Handouts” under the Career Service section of their website: http://franklincollege.edu/student-life/career-services/students-alumni/helpful-handouts/. In particular, what stood out to me was their document “Job Search Ethics and Protocol,” which Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Career Services Kirk Bixler has graciously granted me permission to reprint below. (This is an excellent summary of many of the topics/tips we have posted at this site. Click on the “Marketing Professionalism” link to the right to read past blog-posts.)
- Do NOT give into the temptation of carelessly completing an application. Do NOT make statements on an application like “see attached résumé.” Never leave spaces blank.
- Apply for a job only if you have some realistic level of interest.
- Absolute honesty on your résumé is imperative. Don’t overstate or understate. Don’t downplay your skills because you haven’t been featured in Business Week.
- Request permission to use a person as a reference. Be prepared to explain to your reference what your job search plans are. Provide the reference with examples of qualities you possess. Offer a copy of your résumé. When interviewing, have your list of references on hand.
- Don’t take advantage of an expense account when traveling for job interviews.
- Show up for your interview. If you are visiting a person’s place of work, make sure your appearance, including mode of dress, is appropriate for that environment. You are not a student going to class. Consider yourself a professional trying to make a positive impression. How you present yourself is a partial reflection on the person with whom you are meeting.
- Be a bit early for your appointment. Be mindful of the other person’s time. Come in prepared with questions & knowledge of the business.
- Ask “How would you like to be addressed?” Be on the safe side; few people are offended by “Mister” or “Ms.” Be courteous to everyone you meet.
- Everything you say must be true. On the other hand, you don’t need to say everything.
- You may be asked to say something about another student or applicant. Speak only of your abilities & strengths. It is acceptable for an interviewer to ask you about other interviews, job offers & salary offers. You are not under an obligation to give a direct answer.
- Be aware of illegal inquires. Employers may not ask, “How much alcohol do you drink?” “Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?” “What prescription drugs do you currently take?”
- Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank-you notes are a MUST in the job search process. They may be handwritten or typed. Address them to the person with whom you had the interview.
- Be aware of drug screening requirements.
- Call to inquire about your status in the employer’s hiring process. If a specific time has been communicated, wait until that time has passed before contacting the employer.
- Let the employer be the first to mention salary. End it early if you are not interested. Let the employer know you are not interested in pursuing employment.
- When offered the job, ask for time to think it over & ask for a formal offer letter.
- You may receive one or more job offers you decide to reject. You should convey your decision to reject a job offer orally & in writing. The considerations here are speed & certainty of delivery. Call the person who signed your offer letter. Write a brief letter, also. Do both in a timely manner.
- Only accept a job if you are really interested. Don’t settle. Once you accept a job offer, formally remove yourself from all other job searches. DO NOT continue looking.
These final bulleted items are echoed by another prestigious institution. “Ethical Internship and Job Search Policies” is posted on the University of Notre Dame’s Career Center webpage (http://careercenter.nd.edu/students/ethical-job-search-policies/):
When accepting an offer of full-time employment or an internship (either paid or unpaid), one must have every intention of honoring that commitment. If a student accepts an offer of employment, admission to a graduate or professional school, or other post-graduate career opportunity, he/she must withdraw from the recruiting process immediately. This includes but is not limited to:
- Not applying to future job postings.
- Declining all future interview invitations.
- Canceling any active applications.
- Contacting all recruiters to inform them of your wish to be removed from the interviewing and recruitment process (this includes all scheduled interviews).
Ethics? It all boils down to two questions: “Who are you?” and “For what do you stand?” Besides the fear of “getting caught in lies” and being fired for misrepresentation (or doing an incompetent job because you did not have the qualities for which your employer was looking), it centers on “liking what you see” when you look at yourself in the mirror. Anyway, didn’t you mommy tell you your nose gets longer when you tell a fib?
Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life. – Albert Schweitzer