Is a person still as good as his or her word, or has this sentiment lost its meaning in the competitive, fast-paced world we live in today?
When I speak of a person’s “word,” the specific words I’m thinking of include integrity, trust, honesty, loyalty and the like. To me, these are not simply black and white letters strung together to create a term. These are the values, the very foundation, on which I’ve based both my professional and personal life.
As an industry that emphasizes the critical importance of people and relationships, I know there are many of you out there who have built your reputations and your businesses on these values too. Sadly, I’m starting to feel like I’m bearing witness to the demise of these concepts on an almost weekly basis. Is it just me?
When I was growing up, my father would say about some business associate or customer, “We have a deal. We shook on it.” A handshake and your word – that was all that was needed. Both sides held up their end of the agreement and did what they said they were going to do. Today, I hear more people making fun of a handshake deal than actually honoring it. Most infer that anyone who negotiates deals in that manner must be naïve or uninformed.
What is it that has made these so-called “old fashioned” concepts obsolete? Or perhaps the bigger question is: Should good values ever really go out of style?
There are plenty of factors today that can motivate someone to compromise their own values. Greed is one possibility.
The intense pressure at the Wall Street or private-equity level has certainly caused a number of people to make less-than-sound decisions that destroyed their reputations. People are under so much pressure to deliver financial results that they sometimes stretch or cloud the truth to make deals and agreements work in their company’s favor.
Lately, the term “Fake News” has been bandied about in the mainstream media. I’m not sure whether it’s fake or not, but what would be the motivation to report mistruths? Sensationalism is the answer, because it drives revenue. The desire for profit outweighs the news outlet’s need to be a trusted source. But the customer – the reader – eventually learns. From that moment on, you take that outlet’s “word” with a very large grain of salt.
Legal gymnastics could be another reason for these values to become so skewed that they become obsolete. Many times, I’ve been given legal advice along the lines of, “If you do it that way it’s illegal, but if you alter the approach and do it this way, you can probably get away with it.”
Of course, there also is personal greed, which can push individuals to bend the truth for their own questionable reasons. Regardless of motivation, whether it’s done for business or personal gain, compromising one’s basic values rarely ever works out.
The truth will always be revealed; the lesson will always be learned. And, if you do happen to “get away” with it, if you have any shred of integrity left, it ends up feeling not so victorious after all.
Thanks for letting me vent. And by the way, I’d love for you to prove me wrong. When you see your organization or business partners acting with integrity and honesty, please feel free to share your stories with us. If any business sector could prove that the
demise of integrity and honesty has been greatly exaggerated, it’s the automotive aftermarket. Let’s celebrate more of the good guys. Drop me a line at [email protected].