Mentoring Moments – Tip or Bribe?

Tip or Bribe - 1Is that a tip you are paying or is that a bribe?

Too few people see the relationship between tipping and bribing and even fewer understand the difference. Consider this: Research has shown that in places where people tip heavily, bribes are more likely to exchange hands as well. In addition, Countries with higher rates of tipping behavior also tended to have higher rates of corruption.

New research shows that there’s actually a line between the socially acceptable act of tipping and the immoral act of bribing, according to Magnus Thor Torfason, an assistant professor in Harvard Business School’s Entrepreneurial Management Unit. Professor Torfaon’s basic thesis is “It is generally considered a good-natured pro-social thing to tip, but bribing is considered to be antisocial and negative,” Torfason says. “So this relationship between tipping and corruption is counter-intuitive in the United States.” The line between the two is both fuzzy and gray.

This is a complicated area with a lot of “gray” turf. There have been many attempts to legislate proper behavior around the world, with varying success rates. It sure would be nice if there was some sort of globally acceptable standard. But, until the various cultural norms around the world harmonize and until there is a mature and common body of Law, gray areas will remain. The business you work for probably does business all over the word, and we need to adapt to local customs and practices in order to successful and legally manage our business – all the while keeping out of trouble back home in the USA.

I am a simple man, so let me offer some simple guidance.

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Mentoring Moment: Ethics

Is it still cheating even when you think you are helping others?

We have all seen situations where we wonder why certain decisions have been made, and, sometimes the decision seems to conflict with our personal standards of ethics. In fact, the importance of personal and professional ethics has become so important that many colleges make ethics a required course. Think about Enron, Parmalat, Martha Stewart, Bernie Madoff and the Wall Street debacle caused by phony baloney home loans, and you will see what I mean.Wally dabbles in crime

This Mentoring Moment (MM) is about intellectual honesty and ethics, and in particular the rationalization of questionable decisions that are made on the basis that the decision maker is not just furthering his or her personal interests but also the interests of others – making it is OK to cheat and be unethical. This is a particularly dangerous type of situational ethics leading to intellectual dishonesty. Hopefully, you chuckled a bit and agree with me that Wally in not on the right track.

Research has identified a number of axioms in the area. Here are just a few:

  • Ethical dilemmas occur regularly and often involve resolution of differing interests (or conflicting positions): by behaving ethically, people are able to maintain their positive self-image and personal ethos; by behaving unethically, they can advance their self-interest
  • People often resolve this conflict through “creative” reassessments and self-serving rationalizations, such that they can act dishonestly enough to profit from their unethicality, but honestly enough to maintain a positive self-image
  • When individuals have the opportunity to cheat in situations where the probability of being caught and reputational costs are minimized, most people cheat
  • People are more likely to engage in unethical behavior if they split the spoils of such behavior with another person than when they are the only ones benefiting from it because they find it easier to discount the moral concerns associated with unethical behavior that benefits another person than to discount behavior that only benefits oneself

At this point, let me offer an example.

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