It seems like everywhere I turn these days someone is talking about using one assessment tool or another, from the old stand-by, Meyrs Briggs, to some very sophisticated profiling programs. Even though it may be new to some, in the work I do for Ideasphere, I have been using many of the same tools for years to quickly assess existing management teams as well as hire new team members. I am personally partial to the Harrison Assessment, because it focuses on behavior that impacts daily work life and performance, rather than identifying underlying reasons for the behavior, but I think I have used every one of them at one point or another.
I value some the tools more than others, and take all of them with a grain of salt, but I do use them; They can give me a quick perspective on individuals and teams that can save me weeks of observation, which translates to a smoother, and more rapid implementation of any project, or turn-around I work on.
But here is the challenge; none of these tools tell you anything about the character of an individual, and I have yet to see a meaningfull test that can predict the ethical nature of one’s behavior. Regardless of people’s socio-economic backgrounds, education, credentials, or jobs they held at the time or prior, unfortunately, I have been surprised enough times by unethical, or illegal, behavior that almost nothing shocks me anymore. I have seen people flat out lie under oath, sabbotage coworkers by feeding them wrong information, mis-represent their own qualifications on their resume, cook the books to look good for investors, go back on verbal agreements, and use insider information to make illegal trades, that I would be justified to be somewhat cynical. But, and call me a softie on this one, I personally start by believing every person is decent, and give them the chance to prove otherwise. I always hope people will surprise me to the better and may times they do.
But I do believe there is one personality trait that is a good predictor of the potential of behavior that may go out of ethical or legal bounds.
It is an ingrained sense of entitlement, usually un-justified.
It has been my observation that, when someone deeply believes they are entitled to something, they will go to any length to attain it. This was also the conclusion of a friend of mine who is industrial psychologists and leads the assessment practice of a large recruiting firm. Through research conducted during a period of a couple of years, he also discovered that one common element for unethical behavior was a sense of entitlement about something around that behavior.
So be carefull about what you believe you are entitled to, because that may be the one thing that can cause you to display behavior unworthy of an operator, a manager, or even a decent human beeing. These are just some questions from experiences with people who displayed unethical behavior, even though, at their core, they thought of themselves as decent and ethical human beings.
Do you believe you are entitled to your discoveries, even though you developed them while employed by a company that makes it clear they own anything you develop while in their pay? If you do, be careful; this sense of entitlement may lead you to commit the crime of “Theft of Intellectual Property.” This is not something minor. This is a serious crime that, should it be pursued, can carry a jail sentence.
Do you believe you are entitled to a portion of the profits a company makes because of your contributions, even though you are not a commissioned sales person and the company does not have a profit sharing plan? If you work in accounting and have access to company bank accounts, this may lead you to steal directly from the company.
Do you believe you are entitled to a promotion because of the years you have been with the company, or in the industry, or your superior education, regardless of the opinions of your managers and co-workers? This may lead you to actively pursue making your peers look bad by pointing out imaginary short-comings, in the mistaken belief it will make you look better than them. Even though this is not illegal, it eventually catches up with you.
And finally, do you believe you are entitled to a job, regardless of your contributions? This sense of entitlement, may lead you to do less than expected of your job and try to cover it up with busywork, or excuses. Now this may not be illegal, but I would consider it highly unethical.
Me personally, I solved the business ethics problem. I believe I am entitled to nothing and have to earn everything. Problem solved! 😉