Ethics are a personal code of behavior. They represent an ideal we strive toward because we presume that to achieve ethical behavior is both desired and honored. There is both personal and business ethics. I will describe my personal take on ethics along with experiences that I had working for Best Buy and the ethical dilemmas that I faced.
My personal thought on ethics is that they require accountability. I think that people that are religious and people that are not religious may have two ways to look at this. If religious accountability of personal ethics is to God. For the people who are irreligious, like myself, we can ensure ethical behavior by the law, fear, or personal convictions.
I believe that laws are guidelines that explain the expected behavior. Due to some people not having a “strong” sense of personal convictions the law is needed. The law to me is a set of ethical expectations that you must understand – failure to understand them will result with consequences.
For me – my personal ethics are the key to living, finding friends and determining my own convictions. Personal ethics in a large way define who you are. The code of ethics that not only follow but feel are important for people I surround myself with are:
These ten words describe to me what my personal code of ethics represent. We must have a right and wrong, a moral code. Most religions have a moral code of conduct, and most cultures have a minimum code of conduct also. In the case of society’s code of conduct, its laws, it is usually a-reflection of the moral values of a super majority of its population. Moral codes define our rights and wrongs. The combination, of determining right and wrong and being responsible for our actions, creates the standards for ethical behavior.
Ethics are of special importance to professionals – including retail managers. Retail employees have a great responsibility to the community with their jobs. People have everyday expectations when they go shopping and retail professionals need to have strong ethics. To understand why Best Buy’s ethics did not always match my personal code of ethics I will explain a few examples. Best Buy’s code of ethics is over fifty pages long – so only select examples will be used.
Knowing what is right and wrong may not always be simple. Most of the time, knowing the right thing to do is easy. Retail professionals, as I was, are often faced with many ethical decisions every day. Most often the ethically right answer is simple – this involves being honest and upright. Knowing what the right thing to do is not always simple – the responsibility of those around may not have been enough of a guide – to guide you in the right direction.
Ethics are very important to all business people. Yet, many neglect ethics as an important idea that has a major affect upon retail managers. Working at Best Buy the ethics that we were taught (also bolded on the fifth page of their ethics guide):
UNLEASH THE POWER OF OUR PEOPLE
LEARN FROM CHALLENGE AND CHANGE
SHOW RESPECT HUMILITY AND INTEGRITY
HAVE FUN WHILE BEING THE BEST
Before explaining the corruptions in ethics at Best Buy I did want to explain a few things. Best Buy was a great company to work for. I believe that at the corporate level the company was solid in the ethics that they preached. The situations that I was put in was down to the store level when I was an operations manager in Phoenix.
Ethics at Best Buy is determined by the supervisors that you have. I have worked for some people that were great with personal and business ethics. When I started work in Phoenix, AZ I worked for my store manager, Phil. The first thing that was done that I felt was beyond unethical is lying and manipulation.
When I interviewed for this job via phone it was described as one of the best stores in the district that I was going to be going to. Explained the current financials to me – along with the specific financials that I would be responsible for once I arrived. I was offered the job and moved to Phoenix 7 days later. When I went into the store I did what any good manager would do – I pulled my financials so that I could “know” my business before I started coming up with plans for my team.
Looking at the business I realized that the financials were no where near what had been explained. He stated that my store was ranked third in the territory. There are fifty-seven stores in our territory. My specific financials had placed me fifty-six out of fifty-seven stores.
The ethical dilemma I find with this specific situation is that he lied. Part of there code of conduct is integrity – to be a person of integrity you do not lie. In a position that he was in – it was not his personal ethics that I am looking at. I am looking at the ethics that Best Buy has put into place and expecting you to follow.
That is one dilemma that was really based on lying. I will explain another dilemma that I was forced to face with on multiple occasions. That would be the magazine scam. Have you ever walked into a Best Buy and heard the cashier offer you magazines. “With your purchase today you get eight risk free issues of one of our magazines – which would you like?” This offer was one that we dealt with when I worked in the Green Bay store a lot. How much information was ethically enough – and how little information made the practice too unethical? In the end we determined not to offer magazines in Wisconsin because of the ethical problems we were faced with.
When I moved to Phoenix as their operations manager – they explained how I would have to offer magazines again with my team. I knew that magazines were a problem with my own personal ethics lying, not truthful and not being fair to the customer. I started observing what there presentations to customers were and I could not believe what I saw. There offer was nonexistent but customers were still getting signed up. If a customer would pay with a credit card – they would scan for the magazines and have the customers sign twice; once for the purchase and once to accept the magazines.
I called around to a couple of the other operations managers and they explained how this was a “best practice” in the area and it was fine. This may have been a best practice to them – but not in my book. I ceased that offer immediately – part of my thought process is that if we were already ranked so low there is nothing that we could loose. We would never reach the store with the most traffic to, in my eyes, “Scam the customer.”
I stood my ground and got a lot of pressure from a lot of different people for this matter from store manager to my territory operations manager. In the end I used resources I had gained from my previous work in the midwestern territory to explain my situation and explain why I felt that it was wrong. The ethics team from our corporate office started doing inspections in my area. In the end we still had to offer magazines – but the right way. The way that felt good to me with my own personal ethics.
In the end ethics shape you, your community and your business. I have a personal code of ethics that I follow. My ethics are very simple and to the point but they work for me. Every person on earth has their own personal ethics – there is not one person that is the same. So what are ethics, and what constitutes ethical behavior? That depends, to some degree, on the person answering the question. Organizations also demonstrate the standard of ethics (or lack thereof) held by those shaping the culture of the business. Best Buy had an ethics manual – but it is difficult to force all employees to follow one specific manual. The same with people there are many ways that I have shared that I believe community helps with keeping ethics in check.