#016 – Blue Pill Brokenness – Business As Usual – “Can We” Ethics

In addition to Profit as Purpose, Scarcity and Self Interest, the fourth aspect of “business as usual” that we believe leads to workplace and worker brokenness is a “Can WeCulture–an organizational culture in which ends justify means and ethics or the law are seen as the only boundaries (or even obstacles) in the pursuit of the organization’s purpose.  A goal of Integriosity® is an organizational culture that humanizes people by tapping into their God-given desire to work toward a meaningful “end” in an environment where “means” matter–working in service of a bigger “WHY” by doing the right things, in the right ways, for the right reasons.  Toward that end, we juxtapose an alternative–cultivating a “Should We” Culture–as an example of “business a better way”.

In a  “Can We” Culture: 

  • People are explicitly or implicitly rewarded for asking things like:
    • “How far can we go without violating any law or rule?”
    • “Are our competitors doing it?”
    • “Are we likely to get caught?”
    • “Is it defensible if we are caught?”
    • “Is our customer demanding it?”
  • Competition (whether internal or external) and a fear of losing sales (both tied to the scarcity assumption) can lead to pushing (or even crossing) boundaries.

The problems of a “Can We” Culture are many:

  • Competition will drive behavior to the edges and beyond.
  • It is unprincipled, condones risk-taking and has a short-term focus.
  • It is toxic to the desire we believe is built into each human to do the right thing and glorify God and, because moral failures typically occur through EROSION rather than EXPLOSION, can even lead people to do things they never imagined possible and that they will ultimately regret.  For example, at his sentencing, a hedge-fund manager described the impact of the incessant pressure to deliver returns: “I was not aware of the changes that were happening in me that blurred the line between right and wrong. They came slowly over several years. I allowed myself to slip into the world of relativism where the ends justified the means.  Quite frankly, it’s very hard to imagine how I became that kind of person.”  
A “Can We” Culture is, in many ways, the product of Profit as Purpose fueled by Scarcity and Self-Interest dynamics.  As we have noted in an earlier blog, Profit as Purpose does not support enduring values because it has no moral, ethical or Biblical foundation.  Although “values” may have such a foundation, values in service to Profit as Purpose become a “means” to the “end” and the “means” will always adjust to fit the “end” (never vice versa).

How can “Your will be done on earth” be our motto if what we do is nothing more than proper ethical behavior as outlined by the laws of the land? (Dr. Skip Moen)

By contrast, a “Should We” Culture asks “Whether or not we CAN do it (or get away with it), SHOULD WE do it?” “Should We” can call people to a standard higher than merely man-made laws or the current societal ethics–it can call them to the Biblical standards that they were created to emulate and it can call them to the organization’s values.  This kind of red pill organizational culture only arises when there is a commitment by the most senior leaders:

  • To lead the organization in pursuing a “WHY” that is bigger than maximizing profit and in living out a set of values that reflect and reinforce that mission.
  • To lead the organization in pursuing that purpose by doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons and by supporting all workers in doing the same.
  • To maintain a long-term focus.
  • To cultivate an intentional culture that reflects and reinforces those values and that purpose.

In a “Should We” Culture, people ask things like:

  • “Is it consistent with how we want to serve our stakeholders?”
  • “Is it consistent with our values?””
  • “Is it consistent with our intentional culture?”
  • “Is it doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons?”
  • “Is it consistent with what we say we stand for and who we say we are?”

A “Should We” Culture is a key element in pursuing Integriosity and the red pill goals of Humanizing People, Beautifying the World and Glorifying God.

SPOILER ALERT:  Maintaining a “Should We” Culture also requires leaders whose personal identity is grounded in a WHY bigger than their position in the organization.  One of the four key mind-shifts in the RENEW stage of Integriosity is understanding that “You Are Not What You Do“–You can’t understand the WHY or HOW of faith/work integration until you understand WHO you are.

PERSONAL FOOTNOTE (from PM):  The “Can We”/”Should We” distinction has application outside the area of ethics.  For example, the Coronavirus situation has led to increased remote work, and some employers have been considering software that takes a screenshot of a worker’s computer every 10 minutes and sends it to their manager to confirm productivity.  “Can We“–yes you can.  “Should We“–it depends on your WHY.  If your WHY is profit, then perhaps the answer is “yes” (of course, it may still be “no” if you conclude that the detrimental bottom-line impact on employee morale outweighs the bottom-line benefits of monitoring).  If your WHY is centered on Humanizing People, Beautifying the World and Glorifying God, then the answer is certainly “no”.  What is your WHY?

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