Your reputation is valuable, but that isn’t the best reason for having ethics when you deal with others in your community. Your business prosperity is important too, but again, that’s not the most important thing.
Ethics are the moral and spiritual guidelines you’ve internalized to deal with other people. If you conduct your transactions fairly, and kindly, with respect and compassion, you’re doing a wonderful thing for another person. And that, my friend, is what’s most important. Not your pocketbook, not your name, not you, you, you. You know? It is the people… giving to them the consideration and respect you would want for yourself or anyone close and important to you.
For an ethical business owner, it comes as a shock when another business owner stoops to unscrupulous, unethical practices. We don’t want to think that someone in our community could be so misguided. Our reactions vary from wanting to turn the person in to a government agency or other professional licensing group, to wanting to just forget it, get the mistakes corrected as much as possible, and move on.
When confronted with conscienceless individuals is there any recourse that would really make a change in that person’s feelings about how to conduct business? Would fines or imprisonment help? We are each forced to examine our own ethics and conscience once again to determine the best way to proceed. Every case is different.
People without a conscience, who have no compunction in wrongdoing, are called sociopaths. Martha Stout, in The Sociopath Next Door, tells us that one person in 25 – an astounding 4% of the population – has no conscience, no shame, no guilt, and no remorse. People like this often go undetected in communities for years. They can be very charming, and often are able to pull the wool over people’s eyes for quite a long time.
Usually a sociopath is outed through romantic relationship deficits. Occasionally unsuspecting community members will be able to identify one of their group as a conscienceless, unscrupulous and unethical individual. Confrontations rarely take place. Nobody wants to deal with such a person. The person’s reputation can be shredded, yet will they even care? They will go ahead looking for other groups to infiltrate, manipulate, and control.
In her book, Stout gave the example of a woman employed as a psychiatric doctor, who in reality did not have the credentials for that job. She conned everyone and manipulated multiple situations to cause distress to co-workers she was secretly envious of. When eventually her secret came out, years later, she simply walked away and was never seen again.
It is a sad fact of life that not everyone can be trusted. People can act as if they are the most upstanding and valuable citizen in a community while at the same time lying, being self-serving and deceitful. Compulsive liars are rarely cured. They lie because of low self-esteem issues and need therapy to confront that. But sociopaths just don’t care. Without a conscience, where’s the motivation to change?
Sociopathic compulsive liars may comprise four percent of the members of your local business community. They may dominate local community group meetings and do everything in their power to try to make others think they are the finest and most upstanding citizens in town. Yet many people won’t be convinced and eventually their veneer of respectability will crack. The truth will come out and then watch for their dirty dealings. People without a conscience can often get away with just about anything, and they certainly don’t care who they’re hurting.