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Submitted by ctheune on



we just recently got a request from a partner referring a potentially shared customer to us where some of our team members noted that we're entering territory that reaches their moral/ethical boundaries.

Up until now we never had to think twice and haven't prepared any hard rules which projects the company will refuse to accept on moral grounds. Do any of you have experiences they could share? How do you refresh those? Do you bring those up during hiring? How do you get to a common ground with "everyone"? We're still a small company (12 people)  at the moment but are growing and I'd rather tackle those critical and potentially contentious issues earlier than later.


LEmerson's picture

Morals and ethics are two completely different things, although most people equate the two. If they were, ethical rules for doctors would be the same as those for lawyers, which they're not.

Morals are personal standards usually associated with honesty and integrity. A person's moral standards don't change if they change professions. Their ethics do, however.

Ethics are rules of professional behavior. If you look at ethical standards for different professions, they heavily lean toward keeping the person's butt out of hot water, based on the particular risks of the profession.

Are you a member of any professional organizations? If so, chances are they have a list of ethical rules, or rules of professional responsiblity.

Now's the chance to discuss it and set your standard moving forward.

ctheune's picture
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Thanks for that distiction - I immediately understand it and I didn't have that on hand when writing my question. My native language is German and the words are used differently there: to quote the *German* wikipedia page and translated back to English: "Ethics is the science about morals" ... so that's Worff theory in action. :)

For the sake of this discussion I'm talking about how to get a common ground regarding moral standards. Specifically as we're looking at contracts that are related to military/defense with some mployees voicing concern over not wanting to work for the military. From my personal viewpoint (I'm one of the business owners) I am more than happy to take a hard look at this question - as I wrote, we don't have any preset here on the organizational level.


pucciot's picture
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Your original post was al little bit vague on the areas of concern.

You noted that there are folks on staff that have voiced concerns.

I think your first step is to poll them about their concerns and why.

Then hold that up against your organization’s goals and management foundations.

See if you can come up with a few short statements that outline the organization's Moral and Ethical guiding stars.


Looking at Professional Organizations that align with your business is a good start.


If you business is founded within a particular religion or religious viewpoint then find some things that would help guide that.


Here are some examples :


This organization will not engage in business practices that are contrary to ---

* The Laws of this County, State or Federal Jurisdiction

* The Code of Ethics as stated by the Association of Basket Weavers

* The Catechism of the XYZ Church




You can come up with your own set of Codes of conduct and ethical principles.


PREPARE to Pay the price.

Be ready to lose business opportunities over this.

Be ready to lose employees over this.

And be ready to take the long view that over time your organization will be better for this.


Good Luck



ctheune's picture
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Thanks! Yeah, paying the price is definitely something I'm paying attention to. At the moment we're not prepared to pay the price in either direction (I'd personally be more worried about loosing personnel) because we don't have a clear standard to measure against.

LEmerson's picture

I doubt you'll find any organization's ethics or rules of professional conduct regarding the military. An issue doing business with the military would fall more clearly into the category of a political issue rather than moral or ethical. Political activism is usually framed in an expression of moral superiority. This would be consistent with reasoning being presented as a moral issue.

There's nothing wrong with taking a political stand as a company, most companies do that to some extent. Just know what you're dealing with going in. There are likely other issues that the employees will consider of importance based on "morals."

Also don't assume that all employees agree with the positions. Sometimes the loudest get the most credibility, but the loudest don't necessarily represent the most popular opinion.

ctheune's picture
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Thanks again. I guess I can basically ignore whether it's a label of ethics, morals or politics. 

In the specific context there's sufficient people who raised their voice so that I'm pretty sure it's not a single loudest opinion but your hint reminds me that in addition to openly discussing it the O3s would also be a good place to gather information without people having to compete in loudness.