Kicking Off the Blanket of Mistrust & Stagnancy

Is the gray pallor blanketing our world economy on the verge of lifting? What's keeping us from kicking off this suffocating blanket?

Before an economic war can be won in the workplace, we must fight our first battle at home. Even closer than home, it must be fought and won in our minds.

The line tracking consumer confidence, particularly in the US, continues to follow a volatile, up-and-down trend jagged as the teeth of a circular saw blade. Is it any wonder? When corporate downsizing slows, perhaps Mary and John Q. Public will feel more confident spending larger sums of their squirreled-away savings held for a rainy day. For Mr. and Ms. Public, now is that rainy day.

Beyond a decrease in unemployment figures, John and Mary Public also are looking for business (especially publicly traded business) to reclaim, re-purpose, and re-employ what appears to be its lost ethics. Personally, I think it's more than a matter of consumer confidence at stake. I think it's a matter of trust.

When the nightly news seems besieged by stories of some corporate magnates who, for their own personal gain or for simple self-preservation, have cast aside both their personal and business ethics to achieve either substantial material rewards or notoriety, it's no mystery why consumer confidence and trust are so low.

It will take more than a few good days on the stock market to resurrect that feeling of buoyancy and re-instill a sense of trust in those whose new job is to lead us into the light of day. Throw in a lack of news stories on corporate mismanagement (and maybe a few less eruptions of exotic diseases), and we may see a healthy and sustained turnaround.

As businesses strategize for the coming year, it's imperative to be realistic in setting profit goals. One must wonder if having set achievable goals — not ridiculously high goals in the name of satisfying investors, or worst yet, simply satisfying a person's own greed — would have prevented an Enron, WorldCom, Qwest, or even Martha Stewart, among others. While not an excuse, there are enormous self-imposed and/or corporate pressures placed on CEOs to deliver bottom-line results.

Sadly, the announcement of yet another corporate scandal on the evening news has lost its ability to surprise us. Today the public greets the news with bowed head wags and tongue clicking.

Ethics in the workplace has become a subject of greater focus for all corporations. According to a study conducted by the Birmingham Business Journal — and reported in its article titled “Have we become jaded to corporate scandals?” — many of the survey respondents indicated that when they saw their bosses taking ethical shortcuts, the employees felt they could do the same.

Establishing and adhering to an ethics policy is one proactive effort all corporations can make. While it seems like a very small element in the complex economic formula that may ultimately push our luxury cruise ships from dry dock, it's such an intrinsic, basic, and essential element that it may have been overlooked as an important step in reversing the tide of mistrust helping to keep our world economy in the grip of stagnancy.

For more information on ethics and values in business, go to frankbucaro.com or houston.bizjournals.com/houston.


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