How to React When People Aren’t Ethical


How to React When People Aren’t Ethical

I expect people to do the right thing. I expect people to be ethically honest. Today, I question that expectation. You see, I entered into a legal agreement in good faith. There was intent in the agreement. I thought that the other party were ethical and honourable. It turns out that I was wrong.

Now there’s money involved, of course. And where there’s money involved, greed takes over. The upshot of it all is that when you’re dealing with another party who is unethical they will ignore the intent of the agreement in order to satisfy their greed.

So I’m faced with a dilemma. Do I fight to get what’s rightfully my money or do I run away from the fight and let them “win”? And more importantly, how do I deal with the impact this has on me and my family both financially and emotionally? It’s a tough call.

I’ve been in legal battles before and I’ve worked with clients supporting them through their legal battles, so I understand the cost of a fight.

The bigger issue is how to react to this. As I see it I have four choices:

1. Let this upset me

When I received the email from my lawyer, it made me sick to the stomach. My belief in the good in people was rocked, not shattered, but definitely rocked. And then I started asking myself questions like:

  • Was my judgement of these people so wrong?
  • Have I made yet another mistake in my business and life journey?
  • How many more times do I have to get punched in the gut?

You get the picture. What follows is sleepless nights, a brain that has gone into negative mode with thoughts going round and round about how I could have done something differently to get a better outcome. But it’s too late for that. The reality is what it is and I can’t change it. This might take weeks or months to get beyond and put the pieces of my belief in my fellow human beings back together again.

2. Find a way to live with it without allowing it to impact me

The fact is that I don’t want to let this upset me and impact my life for the foreseeable future. I have a vision for my business that requires me to be focused and positive and enthusiastic. I don’t have time to allow the action of a couple of people upset the future and lessen the impact of the work I do. I need to find a way to put this to the back of my mind and stay focused on my to-do list and tasks at hand, working forward one task at a time, one day at a time until the angst is dissipated.

3. Exact revenge

Ah, now wouldn’t I love to do this. I believe that at a certain level we have to acknowledge that revenge would be sweet, however, it’s not in my nature to do badly to others. I prescribe to the “do unto others as you would have done to you” which means that revenge is a fleeting thought that is then discarded. I am not going to lower my standards to their level, that’s just not who I am.

Note: Know that both parties believe that they are right, it’s just that we have different views

Fundamentally when you look at any argument, the reason for the argument is that both sides think they are right. It’s no different in a legal dispute. When you look at it that way, it doesn’t seem quite so bad. Suddenly it isn’t personal anymore, it just is.

How we react to acts that indicate a lack of ethics is up to us. It’s a choice. A choice we can make every day and a choice that we can make differently if we choose. Our immediate reactions will be dictated by our past behaviours and beliefs, but the conscious choice we make today doesn’t have to be the automatic response we think. I’m choosing to believe that the other party believe that they are correct, that it’s not personal and that my best decision is to look to the future and not dwell on the past.

When you’ve been faced with these types of situations, how have you handled them? And will you consider reacting differently in the future by consciously choosing to do so?

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  • Bronwyn

    Amanda I can feel your stress and disappointment through your writing in this post, and I’m so sorry to hear that someone has taken advantage of you in business as I know that you are an ethical businesswoman. I have been doing quite a lot of thinking and research myself lately on the topic of business ethics, and have written quite a few posts on my blog on this topic. One suggestion I have is to introduce “Ethics Moments”. We all know about “Safety Moments” – when we pause before undertaking a potentially risky task, but Ethics Moments can be used in the same way.

    I hope this situation is resolved quickly for you.

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