Is It Still Cheating If You Don’t Get Caught?

Have you ever heard this before? Recently I heard someone ask, “Is it still cheating if you don’t get caught?” and I just stood there in disbelief. What does getting caught or not getting caught have to do with whether or not you cheated? By this reasoning, then it’s not a lie unless someone catches you lying. Cheating is cheating and lying is lying.

All too often I see business people, athletes, and other individuals try hard to get away with something. They feel that in the spirit of competition anything goes if you don’t get caught. Business doesn’t make cheating right. Sports competition doesn’t justify cheating. And, just because your best friend, your boss, your coworker, or anyone else did it doesn’t make cheating right.

And then I know you’re heard this: “It’s a grey area.” Really? I don’t think so. We create “grey areas” to justify taking the action that benefits us personally. If it’s cheating, it’s cheating. How about if it’s a “grey area” you just don’t do it. Then it’s not a grey area and you won’t be cheating. See how simple that really is?

It doesn’t matter if money is at stake, awards, or even fame. When it comes down to it, we all must ask the question, “What do I want to be known for?”

Harvard Business Review published a study, “The Relationship Between Ethical Leadership and Unethical Pro-Organizational Behavior: Linear or Curvilinear Effects?” In this study the finding supports that ethical leadership positively related to organizational ethics, and that leaders who model ethical behavior and value were more likely to create a culture of ethics within their organizations. They also found that the relationship between ethical leadership and organizational ethics was stronger when leaders exhibited high levels of moral courage and when the ethical climate of the organization was supportive.

We see others cheat and we assume it’s okay or we must do it to level the playing field. If you are a leader, it’s all eyes on you. If you do anything that is less than 100% ethical and with the highest character the people you lead will draw two conclusions:

  1. I better be careful because he/she will try and take advantage of me.
  2. This kind of behavior is okay around here.

It’s no wonder companies must have ethics and compliance officers. Those organizations just haven’t created a culture of ethics and character and that always goes to the top.

Want to work in an organization that operates at a higher standard? Want your children to make better choices and live with character? Want our leaders to lead with ethics and credibility? Well, maybe it’s time that we all individually set the standard, live with the highest of standards, and eliminate the people in our lives who refuse to get on board. You might find that you have more influence than you thought!


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