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Why Ethics Matter In Agencies

Back in undergrad I had an ethics professor that was obsessed with the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant basically said that morality is derived not from man but from nature. That actions that disadvantage one person to the benefit of another are inherently immoral no matter how we try to justify the outcome.

He called his principle the “categorical imperative” and it very much applies to agency professionals.

To be truly ethical, the results of our actions cannot disadvantage one person to the benefit of another.

Agency professionals – by the mercurial nature of the business – have a tendency to act out of an abundance of self interest and ego. We look for an edge and compete for attention like our livelihoods depends on it. We constantly try to seek out ways around the categorical imperative.  Unfortunately, there is none.

For instance, I’ve even seen people look for ways to make hay out of ideas that aren’t necessarily theirs. Maybe it’s borrowing or maybe it’s outright theft but they justify their actions because “it’s the nature of the game.”

Luckily, I’ve found myself working for an agency and actually a brand new client that puts a premium on the categorical imperative. The net impact of our actions both as agency professionals and as corporate citizens is always taken into account. We have to ask if what we’re doing is really moral or ethical or is it taking undue advantage?

In this case, the formula for morality isn’t rocket science….1) treat others with respect 2) give credit where credit is due, and 3) if you’re going to make hay – you better damn well grow your own.

You see, Kant was a big fan of the mathematical and interconnected nature of ethics. In short he said just like we aren’t exempt from certain absolute laws of morality, we are also not exempt from the consequences of our actions.

The formula for morality isn’t rocket science…1) treat others with respect 2) give credit where credit is due, and 3) if you’re going to make hay – you better damn well grow your own.

Stated another way: what goes around comes around. Ask yourself if you’re ready for the consequences of your attempts to get ahead?

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