I recently received a ‘chain’ E-mail from an associate, an elected official in a nearby community, offering me a $20 Applebee’s gift certificate if I forwarded this official, signed by the owner of Applebee’s E-mail, to nine of my friends and family. It said that Applebee’s was looking to increase awareness in rural areas by offering this free giveaway.

I immediately wondered how anyone, or Applebee’s for that matter, would know I was in a rural area by my e-mail address. And how would anyone know whether or not I’d sent it to nine, and not eight, of my friends and family?

With a desire to help my associate realize this was only a ‘chain’ E-mail, I headed for my favorite hoax site, and forwarded information to the more than 80 E-mail addresses detailed in the message, that this was indeed a hoax and not to send it to anyone, there was no $20 Applebee’s gift certificate at the end of this message. It was a waste of everyone’s time to respond. Truly, if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true!

In response, the originator told me that he knew it was a hoax when he sent it. Hoping to discourage him in the future, or help him understand why he wouldn’t want to respond to such an E-mail, I asked him why he would knowingly perpetuate a hoax that could put the E-mail addresses of his friends, family, associates, and voters, in jeopardy of being harvested for spam, not to mention the reflection on him as an elected official who represents people on important issues in our community. After hearing this, I felt his reputation was somewhat at risk.

I got an almost immediate response detailing that it had nothing to do with his being an alderman, and that this is how he prefers to communicate with his contacts on a regular basis. Really? While for family this might not be such a big deal, for friends, and associates, this could indeed make an impact on how they feel about him as a political figure representing their interests.

We obviously have different ideas of communicating with friends and family, too. In my mind, this is a reflection on him as an elected official, which I would think is important to the people he represents. My mistake!

He didn’t take the time to consider what harm it would do to them (friends and family), or consider his reputation. That’s what ethics are all about. Thinking beyond the scope of your business, or personal life, and making sure that what you’re doing is legal, fair to everyone (will it favor one party over another), and that you do no harm (How will it make me feel about myself?).

One of the most important things about being ethical in my personal and professional life is to help others see how their actions and activities can have a big impact on the way they are perceived, ethically. As in other areas, you can lead a horse to water….well, you get the idea!

Sometimes people don’t want to be helped, or don’t believe that what they say and do makes a difference. I learned many years ago when I worked for a rather unethical company, that it has everything to do with what others perceive. Even though I was a lowly employee of this company, as a company representative I was viewed as unethical, too.

It wasn’t until I left the industry and started my own business that associates felt comfortable in letting me know the impact the company’s bad behavior had on me personally.

Don’t take a chance with your reputation, make sure you practice good, solid ethical standards on both a personal and professional level.

Wishing you continued success and the wisdom to consider ethical decisions.

Author's Bio: 

Jeannine Clontz, IVAA CVA, MVA, EthicsChecked™, provides marketing and social media support, training and consulting to busy entrepreneurs. For information about finding a VA, download her FREE 10-Step Guide to Finding the Right VA, or to learn why Social Media should be an important part of your marketing plan with her FREE Report, Social Media Marketing Benefits, visit: http://www.internetmarketingvirtualassistant.net, or contact her at info@internetmarketingvirtualassistant.net