In discussions of ethics, we often focus on rules. We analyze codes of ethics and we evaluate our legal obligations. Yet, ethical conduct incorporates three values that we intrinsically understand yet often have difficulty defining – trust, transparency and truthfulness.
First, truthfulness. We don’t want others to lie to us. Information is important to us – particularly in the “information-centric” world we have created. Our actions, and thereby our reputations, are driven in large measure by the information we receive, so we have to trust what we are given is the truth.
Second, transparency. We want to know that information important to us is not being withheld. In particular, we are interested in potential bias or conflict of interest on the part of those providing information to us.
This has become an important concern with our reliance on social media. Individuals can use social media to promote products, services and positions without revealing their identity – or their interests. In some cases, individuals pretend to be something other than what they really are and the interests being advanced are inconsistent with their claimed identity.
Finally, trust. Trust makes relationships work.
Trust is what makes our personal relationships prosper. Trust is what helps build effective teams at work. Trust is what allows us to drive 60 miles an hour down a two-lane road. We trust that the other drivers are going to stay on their side of the road.
We all want to feel that those we trust will “have our back.” We want to know others will support us and keep us safe from harm.
According to a Deloitte survey, when those planning to look for a new job were surveyed, 48 percent cited loss of trust in their employer as a primary reason for pursuing new employment.
It is important to understand our legal obligations, but ethics is more than simply conforming to the letter of the law. When making decisions, it is also important to consider truthfulness, transparency and trust.