Life is not about what you can get away with.
To get ahead, on the job, with friends and even within your family, you should follow certain basic ethical principles.
Kathryn Tuggle summarizes them in a new column. She gleaned them from a relationship management consultant named Eric Schifter, but, hopefully you know them already.
It should be fairly obvious that no one has ever lied his way to the top, but Schifter explains, more importantly, that you cannot tell one person one thing and another person another thing.
Consistency counts in business. Colleagues, co-workers, bosses and employees need to know that your words mean something. If two of your colleagues discover that you have told each of them something different, they will conclude that you are two-faced.
If you learned in college that words never really mean what they say or say what they mean, demand a refund. Anyone who follows that amoral principle will end up dysfunctional, unemployed and broke.
And then: do what you say! When you promise to do something, deliver it, ON TIME. Otherwise, Schifter say, you will lose everyone’s respect. Worse yet, if other people need your input to do their jobs you are messing with their time. You will develop a reputation for being unreliable and untrustworthy.
Respect, once lost, is very difficult to regain.
If college taught you different ways to make excuses for handing in assignments late, it has taught you a very bad habit.
As a corollary, don’t call in sick unless you are really, really sick. And don’t take a vacation day when an important project is due.
You must show your commitment to the job and you must show that you know how to function as part of a team. If you sacrifice the good of the team for reasons that appear self-indulgent, your career prospects will suffer.
And then, of course, you should treat everyone with respect. Everyone means everyone, from the receptionist to the janitor to the CEO.
If you try to assert your importance by talking down to others, everyone will understand that you are trying to cover your own lack of confidence.
By now you know that when you are invited to have your job interview over lunch, your prospective employees will be noticing how you interact with the waiter or the busboy. You do not have to be best friends with the staff, but if you disrespectful, curt, condescending or dismissive you will not be getting the job.
And finally, take personal responsibility when something goes wrong. Do not shift the blame. You should do so even when you are not entirely to blame.
If others bear some responsibility, it’s for them, not for you, to say so.
It’s about being part of a team, but it’s also about exercising leadership. Leaders are responsible. Followers are not.
Tuggle summarizes the point:
When you're quick to point the finger at others, it makes you look like you're not only separate from the team, you're actually working against the team. This can lead to resentment from colleagues and may mean that people no longer want to work with you on any major project, she says.
When a mistake is made that's not entirely yours, take ownership, even if it hurts to do so, says Tom Gimbel, president and CEO at LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based staffing firm.
"Whether a co-worker had a typo in a project you spearheaded, or there was a mistake in a presentation a colleague proofed, take accountability. No one wants to be thrown under the bus," he says.