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Ethical Business Boundaries

Do you have business boundaries, or do you Plan Your Escapes from Trouble?

We know a fire drill helps you plan and practice how to get out of a burning building in a hurry - it can save your life. There are also dangers lurking in your business and personal relationships and liasons. Therefore, wouldn't it be prudent to consider what those problems might look like and to plan how you will escape before you are trapped?

Proverbs 27:12 says, "The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it."

In your business you could run into problems such as;
an immoral proposition
a decision that tests your integrity and honesty
an opportunity or venture that expects dishonesty as a matter of course.

Let's take just those three and work out some business boundaries, or plan your escape from trouble, should it arise in your business life. These planned responses will help you out when you have only a split second to decide.

Immoral Proposition

More and more we are hearing on the news of sexual propositions, innuendo, and outright harassment in highly respected organizations and government offices. Sometimes it is the boss approaching employees, but sometimes it is others trying to seduce the business owner. You may know of instances that no one else has a whiff of a clue about.

An instance in the Bible that can teach us the correct response is about Joseph, who though a slave, had become a trusted manager in Captain Potipher's household. It was the captain's wife who tried to seduce Joseph. He slipped out of his clothes she was grabbing and ran!

We know that she then accused Joseph to her husband, of trying to attack her. This led to Joseph being dropped into prison. (Which meant the captain liked him; otherwise he would have been killed immediately). To this day immorality and accusations of the same are used to dominate another, and to disgrace and ruin people.

So no matter how tempting the proposition may be when first presented to you, flee. Better still, become discerning to see where such a thing may happen, or be developing in a relationship, and set up guardrails, or moral and business boundaries, to protect yourself. Make rules for your office, not to be alone with a person who might be so inclined. Be very careful about everything you say, for it may be held against you and even used in court.

Your best plan to escape from trouble of this sort, is to live a very moral and upright, honest life, so that anyone who knows you, when pressured for the truth, will have to admit that they see no fault in you. Yes, that is hard, which is why is is important to think through as many scenarios as you can and work out in advance what your response would be if that happened to you.

Rather than becoming anxious however, I recommend, that you also commit all your preparations and your daily behaviour to the Lord, and ask for God's help to live a good, moral life, above all reproach.

Test of Integrity and Honesty

In all walks of life we run into these little situations where we may be tempted to lie or take shortcuts to our advantage. It is often assumed that business people yield to such temptations as a matter of course, so we have that stigma to fight off as well.

I think of myself as honest, reliable and noble as the best, but even I have on occasion paused for a moment to ask, "shall I take that for myself?" or, "who would know or be hurt if I take that advantage for my business?" Or, "I should take time for this relationship, as she can help me get ahead!"

Some of those little situations may truly be harmless and good sense. But how well can we tell those from the ones that involve deceit, stealing, and taking advantage of someone else to their hurt? To learn discernment we need to set up standards, business boundaries again, if you will, as a plan to escape trouble. When you can be objective, and think clearly, list the ways you might be tempted to do wrong, and plan protective rules for your business. Plan for checks and balances by deciding who handles the money and cover for one another so that no one has good opportunity to make decisions all alone, or to adjust the numbers.

True. You can over-plan to the point of tying yourself and everyone else up in knots so that you hardly have time for the real work. We need to be careful not to go way over-board. You might want to start with a written policy statement posted in obvious places. You may have to change some rules after a few months to make them less cumbersome and more effective. Or you may just settle for an action plan in your head, (one you review regularly to help you remember), that if this happens, you will do that to correct it; if that happens, you will do this to counter-balance, or keep from doing wrong.

You don't want to become Miss Prissy in your relationships, but a rule or two for how you will treat people with respect, no matter who they are, can go a long way with employees and partners, as well as clients or customers.

A Business Opportunity/Venture Assumes Dishonesty

Be prepared to cancel and bow out quickly if a business opp that expects or assumes you will be dishonest, or if it doesn't feel right. That often seems hard to do if you have just made a commitment to someone, but good business boundaries allow that to happen less often.

You just signed the contract, say yesterday, and today you face some facts and a cold flush washes over you. Don't fall for the lie that now you can't back out. Make your cut clean and quick. Be as polite as you can; no need to throw a temper tantrum, but give no hint that you can be persuaded if they nag you.

This is where it would help to have an ethics section in your business policy, that you can point to and say, "This is the standard I live by. I'm sorry I overlooked that when I agreed to your proposal yesterday."

Better still is to set business boundaries for the types of opportunities and ventures that you will seriously consider and which types are right off your radar screen, and you want to keep them there.

For instance, any business opportunity that comes to me by email without me asking for it is treated as SPAM and deleted without reading it past the subject or first few words. As soon as I recognize it for what it is, I delete it. Even if I see enough words to make me think..."Well, maybe...?) No. Anyone offering a venture has to use other channels. Too many risky ops come that way to bother examining each one.

When I see one through an affiliate program where I already belong, I may go to their site and read the whole thing carefully. Often they want you to sign up for some key information before they tell you all of their plan. If I am tempted at that point and want to check it out further, I sign up but with a throw-away webmail address, in case they will start hounding me with emails every day of my life. Even if you unsubscribe from such a mailing list they may continue to hound you. So then my next recourse is to close that email account and get another one. The very fact that they overwhelm me with emails is good reason to back out as soon as possible. Such people want to take over your life, and I don't want any partner like that!

To summarize, there may be many areas of your life where you need to think through your coping plan, or escape route, should you be drawn into that situation. I've only touched on three areas as an example to illustrate the principle; temptations and troubles will come - just like birds fly over your head - but you can keep them from making a nest in your life.

You can do this with rules and limits in office manners and ethics. You can do this with business boundaries for the kind of liaisons you will make, even whom you will hire. You can also do this in your spiritual life by praying and asking God to help you guard your thoughts words and deeds and keeping them clean.

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Ruth Marlene Friesen

Ruth Marlene Friesen
The Responsible One

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