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Ethics 101: GTA V, Justin Bieber and The Wolf of Wall Street

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This morning I saw a Prius out front of my house, in a relatively affluent Southern California neighborhood. In it were two teenage boys smoking pot. Not a joint which could be mistook for a hand-rolled cigarette, but a huge bong in plain-sight from my kitchen window. Really!? I chased them off.

I have kids that don't do drugs, "Yippee!", but still don't need that negative influence right outside their front door! They already have many of their friends who play the newest bestselling video game, GTA V (Grand Theft Auto 5) which has so much sex, drugs and violence in it you no longer need to wonder "why are our kids growing up too fast nowadays?" How is exposure to meth, murder and rape considered fun?

Then I open up the news and there's "teen heartthrob" Justin Bieber in a mugshot. What a horrible example for all our children. Arrested for alleged DUI and resisting arrest; it's not sad, it's bad. Bad choices. An ethics violation simply rooted in "I don't care about anyone but myself."

At least The Wolf of Wall Street attempts to send a message of "we know this is a horrible example, you might end up this way" for entrepreneurs and executives and all hard-working adults. I won't dissect that further! However, just review the daily media headlines of corporate irresponsibility and don't you think we need to start self-policing the ethics of those around us? I'm NOT talking vigilante crap now, don't blow this out of proportion. I didn't call the cops on those boys; just advised them to get their heads straight.

When it comes to our own ethics level, as professionals in our groups and workplaces, I've seen some lapses that could be avoided by less-than-divine intervention. Maybe just a bit of personal ethics and integrity would suffice. In today's society, I think it is important to explore the difference between Ethics and Justice before one delves into the realm of the broad general notion of "ethics." There appears to be a common misunderstood concept here.

Ethics is a personal thing. Something the individual uses personally to set the boundaries for what they believe is acceptable behavior that will allow them to sleep at night. This has a broad range from "what would set a good example for others and help the most people I'm directly or indirectly involved with" to the other end of the spectrum as "whatever I can get away with and what they don't know won't hurt them." I'm sure you've observed those individuals who operate, at least to some degree, from either of these viewpoints. The development of an individual's personal ethics and integrity level is bred from good parenting, school or social environments and faith, or a lack-thereof on any of these fronts. This is where the individual has settled in and would make their decisions from, even when alone.

Justice is commonly agreed upon as the Police, Courts and Corrections system, but isn't it also you and I in our workplace or social groups making the decision to enforce a code of conduct upon individuals in a group? Think about it. A group has its own member's agreement to a level of ethical conduct that must be displayed or practiced by each of the individuals in the group or they enact justice. It is as specific and unique to each group as it is to each individual. Down at local Joe's Tows, it may be commonplace to use profanity in casual conversation, but at Abacus Accounting repeated use of profanity may be grounds for termination.

The food for thought here is: In our personal and professional positions, how can we set a standard of ethics that permeates the ranks of our boards, our staffs, our friends and our families so that we may feel some responsibility to the increased sanity in our industry, community and country?

I can only hope you agree.

As I'm supposed to (as The Hiring Guru) give hiring advice here, not soap box; use this topic as an area to get intellectual conversation going with prospective candidates. I think you will be surprised at the vastly difference in opinions and standards your candidates will voice and that will contribute to your decision before inviting them on your team.

David Jensen, is a Bestselling Author, Speaker and Coach. He sits on the Board of multiple corporations and is the Founder of The Hiring Academy - davidleejensen.com.