In 2006, the Thunderbird School of Global Management was the first business school to institutionalize a pledge for responsible management. Although it was not warmly accepted at that time, attitudes changed quickly two years later when a focus on short-term profits led to the global economic meltdown.

Much of the same behavior that caused our ponziconomy to falter so badly still exists today. Labaton Sucharow LLP just released results to their survey, Wall Street, Fleet Street and Main Street: Corporate Integrity at a Crossroads, and what they found was startling. According to the survey, 24 percent of respondents reported a belief that financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct in order to be successful, while 26 percent of respondents indicated that they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace. Also, 16 percent of respondents reported that they would commit a crime—insider trading—if they could get away with it.

So what should you do when you see unethical behavior?

Make the Decision to Act – Think about your internal compass and review your own sense of right and wrong. Ask yourself two questions. What will happen if I report the incident? What will happen if I ignore the incident? When you’ve decided to report, you must act quickly.

Review the Organization’s Policy – You can easily remove any feelings of guilt or ambiguity by reading your organization’s policy. It should provide concrete procedures for you to follow and give you peace of mind in the form of protections for whistleblowers.

Document Everything – To avoid getting into a “he said, she said” discussion, take the time to document specifics such as actions taken and language used. Remove all personal feelings about the situation and stick to the facts. Inserting emotion into the documentation will only cause hard feelings after the situation resolves itself.

If you haven’t pledged an oath of honor, similar Thunderbird’s below, consider the creation of a personal mission statement that will be your guiding light in somewhat uncertain times. In a society filled with pressures to look, act and behave a certain way, the development of a strong character will create your sustainable competitive advantage.

Instead of potentially acting unethically and only pushing the growth of the bottom line, choose to act ethically and push the growth of the triple bottom line.

Source: Thunderbird School of Global Management