New Years resolution: No hidden agendas

It’s just business… nothing personal.

I am not a big fan of the above expression. It usually implies that whatever has happened, is justified because it is business.


Sam Harris, the author of “Lying” brings out good point.

“Many people think it’s ethically justified to have two, distinct ethical codes: one for the way they treat their friends and family and another that applies to business relationships and customers. It’s a problematic practice, and it becomes this engine of embarrassment and misbehavior.”

The majority of business people not only accept a white lie every now and then, but actually seek to bend the truth about motives and goals.

In business, the fact that the end justifies the means has become the status quo, and it creates situations where even the sincere will be questioned, because nobody expects anyone else to play with open cards.

The problem is so wide spread, that classes teaching students to deal with the moral dilemma, are taught in management schools all over the world. Stanford has a class in which;

Students are expected to evolve a personal ethical code that they can live by. The emphasis is on real-life ethical situations and not theoretical philosophy.

Look at the wording. “…a personal ethical code that they can live by.”

A certain level of moral dilemma is implied, already at the class description level. I would be very curious to find out whether the course teaches the students to identify the level of unethical choices, that they are willing to accept in business; or to identify unethical traits in themselves, in order to be persons that are a refreshing change in business.


It is not difficult for business representatives to justify their dishonesty, since everyone else around them is behaving the same way.

The problem is that it doesn’t take long before the shortcuts and white lies on a personal level, become more defining aspects of corporate culture.

As the behavior becomes corporate culture, the problems only grow.

It might be a bad example, but Mark Zuckerberg has been called out by several people, as having stolen their ideas, and deceived them in the process of building Facebook. What Mark Zuckerberg did, or did not do, is not really relevant any longer. Facebook is the dominant social network, and its position does not seem to be threatened at the moment.

The problem is how the individuals right to control their privacy is presented in one way to the users, and in another way to the advertisers. The way Facebook, and many other companies, track individuals online, may not be illegal (most of the time), but it sure as hell isn’t ethical.

It is however constantly on the border line of privacy regulation. A choice that Facebook “can live by”. Which direction Facebook would push that line, if there was no restrictions, is hardly a state secret.


The reasons for accepting questionable moral decisions, can always be found. Man is more than capable of justifying decisions, even bad ones, in the event of being able to get personal gain.

It’s just business… nothing personal.

My New Years resolution for 2012 is that I continue to trust the people I work with, and the people I want to work with.

All it takes, is one step at a time, instead of assuming hidden agendas… assume that there is no hidden agenda.

Trust creates trust, and at the end of the day, why wouldn’t the good guy win? Right?

About Sakari Kyrö

Customer experience fanatic, looking for weak signals to understand the future of the connected economy.

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