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Ethics ... one person's perspective.


The best way to start this conversation about ethics is to begin with a quote from Sherron Watkins, "Being an ethical person is more than knowing right from wrong. It is having the fortitude to do right even when there is much at stake." (1)

And what's at stake? A hard-earned salary for one; the trust that the government, corporate leaders, or employees will make the right choices and be good stewards; and the integrity of every person entrusted with making tough decisions day in and day out.

Ethics imposes upon everyone the notion to do our best, and rightfully so, because good just isn't good enough. It's a moral compass meant to guide thoughts and actions that are genuine and constructive, not selfish and destructive.

How do right or wrong ethical decisions affect our lives, and what can be done to mitigate the wayward souls that perpetrate unconscionable, nefarious acts?

The Ethical Person--HIGH ROAD

"Life is good!" I know you've heard the saying, or seen or worn the shirt! For the ethical person it's true ... life's awesome! Most of the human race doesn't have a problem with doing the right thing. Of course, many of us have slipped or thought "what if;" but, most haven't acted on the perverted behavior to steal, in any sense of the word, from the moral responsibility we have in front of us each and every day.

There are six basic values inherent in good sound ethical behavior whether at work, home, or taking in a friendly game of golf. The six pillars of character (2) are:

1. Trustworthiness. Having integrity, being honest, and showing loyalty.

2. Respect. Celebrating family, friends, and co-workers. Being tolerant and accepting of differences. Think about your actions--would they make your mother proud?

3. Responsibility. Striving for self-control, excellence, and continual self-improvement. Be accountable for your words and attitude--set the example, a good example, for others to emulate.

4. Fairness. Treating others and making decisions based on facts without favoritism or prejudice. Play by the rules; don't take advantage of a technicality or place others in unfortunate situations. Do what's right, not what's easy!

5. Caring. Showing compassion, empathy, forgiveness, charity, and humility.

6. Citizenship. Being obedient. Be a good shepherd for your community, protect the environment, and stay informed and active in those matters relevant and in support of good faith.

The Unethical Person--LOW ROAD

unethical (3) /uhn-eth-i-kuh |/adjective

1 lacking moral principles; unwilling to adhere to proper rules of conduct. 2 not in accord with the standards of a profession. (She treated patients outside the area other training, and the appropriate medical organization punished her unethical behavior.)

"The devil made me do it!" "Well, everyone else does it!" "My behavior didn't hurt anyone!" You've heard these before, and maybe even uttered them a time or two ... If all your friends were jumping off a bridge would you do it, too? It's easier to take the high road but sometimes through circumstances we might deem uncontrollable we are forced to take the low road. It's inevitable; even if we really ascribe to and pontificate on how we're high road dwellers. People are out there, selfish people, that believe society owes them something that truly is not theirs.

The Helpful Solution

Ethical standards, common missions and goals, compliance programs, a code of ethics ... abide by them! These methods and more help to instill the right behavior and beliefs in people who care, people who want to make a difference, and those that believe there is truth in advocating for right! It's really quite simple. You will forever be faced with right and wrong decisions. Knock the devil off your shoulder and permanently relocate to the high road. Do what's right and you'll feel good. No, not good, GREAT!

Ultimately it's everyone's responsibility to continually demonstrate goodness and look the right way, not the other way! Educate those you mentor, coach, and lead. Make sure you guide by example. Remember the tone at the top is a powerful influence for good or bad; let us not misguide the future but rather prepare others for theirs.

Ask yourself: Is it really worth it to go through all the trouble of being responsible and making the right choices? Absolutely, it's worth it! And pretty easy to boot.

"One mistake, one brief lapse of my new found judgment that's all it took to unravel everything. What a massive responsibility, being a moral creature."--Isaac Marion


(1) Carozza, D. (2007). Interview with Sherron Watkins: Constant Warning. Fraud Magazine

(2) Josephson, M., Making Ethical Decisions,

(3), Unethical Defined,

Richard P. Dayhoff

Mr. Richard P. Dayhoff is an Audit Manager with Army Audit Agency. He came to Army Audit in October 2008 from Washington, DC where he served since 2001 as Project Manager, Team Leader, and Auditor for Naval Audit Service. Mr. Dayhoff graduated from the College of Southern Maryland with both an A4S, Accounting and AAS, Management Development Degrees. He is a member of the American Society of Military Comptrollers.
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Author:Dayhoff, Richard P.
Publication:Armed Forces Comptroller
Date:Sep 22, 2015
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