October 10, 1992


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Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).—Mark Twain

According to Linda Treviño, professor of organizational behavior at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business Administration, “Ethical breaches are often the result of the corporate culture or pressure from management, pressure that can emerge when a company finds itself unable to live up to financial forecasts or expectations and tries to bend the rules to achieve them.”3

What kinds of pressures come to us and at us everyday? Check out this list. Do you see these in your life?

I know of no business anywhere that doesn’t have some kind of deadlines connected with their corporate performance. That being said, deadlines are not the same in weight, speed, or volume. For example, some companies seem to thrive on deadlines and the entire culture is fueled by one deadline after the next. Newspaper reporters and editors know that all too well.

The demands of every job are going up. Many corporate cultures distinguish between their employees by comparing quality: who will go the extra mile and stay late again or come in early again or do something that helps with the last-minute urgency that a deadline creates.

Deadlines sometimes become the test for peoples’ ethics. The thing that made many a college student cheat on the test was they did not have time to study. Many times deadlines test our ability to be honest and truthful with our boss, peers, customers, or family.

There are two different deadlines. The first is self-imposed. The more organized a person is the more of these they operate with. Normally these don’t test our ethical backbone like a deadline driven by our boss or our customer, which is the second kind of deadline.

So what do we do?
● Don’t cross over the center line of the good, the right, and the true. You will only be driving in head-on crash territory.
● Don’t wait until the last minute to complete a project or follow through on a promise. If someone else waits to the last minute, you can’t help that but you can do something about your own procrastination.
● Don’t cave in to any and all demands at the last minute. Learn how to say no or at least navigate the continuous deadline culture correctly.

Peer Pressure

Dennis Rainey, quoting psychologist David Anderregg, made the case that there is no single more influential element in a teenage girl’s life than peer pressure. He wrote: “The peak of conformity comes at or around age 13. At this age, there is nothing more important to a child than being just like everyone else—normal.”

Over dinner one evening with another couple my wife and I started talking about the pressure that kids face today. Then the conversation turned to adults and the obvious was too bold to get around. Adults are just as driven to conform and be normal as a 13-year-old girl. We don’t outgrow it.

Anyone who has ever had to travel for a job and has peers who travel with them knows they must establish boundaries. The peers will pull and push and continually try to solicit your participation. If the conduct is good, right, and true, then what a bonus. There’s no problem. But if the peers are coming from the enemy side of ethics you have to set up your offensive and defensive game plan just like a college football coach going to his first big Bowl game.

Big Opportunities

Remember, once you get the business you have to keep the business. To keep the business you have to service the business, which means you have to give it value. So it is not always a good thing to keep on growing and to always say yes to every opportunity. Only take the ones that you can complete wholeheartedly—and that further your Power of One mindset.

The allure of the Big Opportunity has always made people turn a little light-headed with their ethics. It sometimes disorients us and keeps us from seeing things as they really are. It might sound good, but is it a Golden Opportunity—or just a big opportunity?

There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed.– Siddhartha Guatama Buddha

What would you do or say to get the big sale? Would you cheat or shade the good, the right, and the true just this once? Many folks do fine with their ethical equilibrium until the big deal shows up. Be careful.

Bad Results or Bad Consequence

This is the same principle that showed up when you were very young and our parents said, “Who did this?” pointing to the chocolate on the carpet. It is amazing how unclear kids can become when they know that honesty will have a penalty. That is when some of us first began to shade the truth.

I cannot change my response just because I know that I am going to get in trouble. I have a friend who is very ethical—until the searchlight is flipped on and he has to sit down and answer the hard questions. He just folds.

In order for me to make good decisions under pressure, I need reminders of what’s at stake. First, I’m accountable to God. Second, I’m accountable to my family. And I keep reminders of that around me all the time. In my office I have pictures of my family so I’ll never forget that people are depending on me to do right.

“Good men prefer to be accountable.” – Michael Edwardes

One of my definitions of success is for those closest to me to love and respect me the most. Reminders are valuable, but they are not enough. I also need systems to keep me on track. For example, if I must make a decision under pressure, I will take the time to write out the problem and solution so I won’t act rashly. I also write down promises I make so I cannot easily forget them. I suggest that you do similar kinds of things. Do whatever you must to hold up under pressure.

You never will be the person you can be if pressure, tension and discipline are taken out of your life.—James G. Bilkey

Pressure can make us:

Crack: There are two kinds of windshield cracks. One is a shattering and the other is a hairline fracture that just works its way across the windshield. Every time you get into your car it has spread a little further across the glass. You ask yourself how that can hold up—and how long can it hold up before it falls into your lap.

Pressure in life can do that. It can cause us to either shatter our ethics or just slowly and quietly creep an ethical fracture across the windshield. We crack either in a sudden shatter or we just inch our way across the screen of our life. The same goes for our ethical framework of life.

When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.–Jacob August Riis

I’m pretty sure he said that about when good things happen, but obviously the reverse is true.

Melt: We can also experience a meltdown. It is when our systems become paralyzed. Our shields are down and radars go to a blank screen. We lose all bearings with Ethical North.

The fire of adversity will melt you like butter or temper you like steel. The choice is yours.–Unknown source

Stumble: We also can stumble. We trip up and make a mistake or failure. This is very common. For example, you really never intended to speed. You didn’t plan it on purpose, but it still happened. It was a mistake, as a result of having left too late to get to that important meeting.

Pressures come in all sizes and shapes and colors. Some are personal and have our name on them. Some are not, but still touch our world.

…with pressure comes the temptation to cut corners or bend the truth.

We all have pressures associated with our work and our life endeavors. We face pressures to produce, to be efficient, to be legal, to be environmentally safe, to be profitable, to meet sales goals, to be free of conflict, and so on. When the pressure to meet these goals causes us to think outside the confines of the Golden Rule, then we have a problem.

Compromise is often preceded with pressure of some nature. We desire to meet a certain person’s expectations and often it means treating another unethically. The goal in living our the Golden Rule is to handle the pressure appropriately and still maintain our commitment to treating others as we would want to be treated, even among intense pressure.

1. Can you identify with the temptation to compromise under pressure? Name one situation where pressure affected your ethic:

2. What are some pressure points in your work that exert influence on your decisions?
Name five:

3. What are the negative outcomes associated with compromising your ethics in order to appease a pressure source?

4. Explain this ancient proverb:

Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse.

5. How do you feel when you compromise under pressure?

6. What could you lose through compromise under pressure?


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