Telegraph your values

I arrived in Chicago yesterday for a business event. Last night, I decided to go out to dinner with a colleague, who is also an ethics & compliance professional. I hailed a car service (perhaps Lyft, Uber or Via) and we headed out.

Midway through the trip, I get this funny feeling that I forgot to select my personal debit card to pay for this ride. I pull out my phone, open the app, and sure enough the trip is being charged to my corporate card. There’s no way to change the payment method on the fly. I turn to my colleague and say out loud “Well, lesson learned. Next time, I have to check the payment card before starting the ride. Now, I’ll have to deal with the hassle of making a personal payment to my corporate card!”

That’s when our driver said: “Or, you could just pretend that this was for business.” After we told him what we do for a living, trying to add a bit of humor to the situation, he quickly added: “Well, of course, we always need to do the right thing.” It was a bit awkward.

It reminded me of a study that showed how employees who prominently display religious artifacts or ethical quotes at their desk are less likely to be asked to break the rules by their boss. Just like our driver, once reminded that they are dealing with a person guided by ethical values, the bosses look for easier preys.

What if each of us found a way to communicate our desire to do the right thing before we are asked to break the rules?

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