So, maybe it’s the crazy wind that was blowing around here all day yesterday, but I’m beginning to wonder about corporate sanity (if there is such a thing). Specifically, I’ve been hearing about more and more contracts with ethics clauses written into them. This is downright weird. Does the signing of a contract make one ethical? It’s like that silly page that comes up on some workplace servers saying you’re very naughty if you’re not the person you’ve logged in as. We all know that. That’s why hackers hack and the rest of us comply. But legislative morality? Via contract? The notion is strange because ethics relies on an agreed-upon set of standards. If Trump has taught us anything it’s that there’s no agreed-upon set of standards. Some of us can honestly say that we weigh our own ethics every time we do anything. Send me a contract and see!
The first time I saw an ethical behavior clause it was in a contract from a Christian company. They wanted no business dealings with the corrupt, misbehaving, and one might guess, pagan sort. When such a contract is sent to a business, it means that said business will monitor the morality of all its employees. That’s something I certainly wouldn’t want to be in charge of. Rationalization is too easy and far too human. Let the one without sin cast the first whereas. Well, one would think that a Christian company might take that point of view. The way some Christians have treated me over the years makes me shudder at the advantages taken.
This idea seems to be spreading out to secular companies as well. You read about contracts with ethical clauses in them—anyone who’s not ethical will have no qualms about signing a contract stating s/he is! Why offer a contract at all if someone’s morals are in doubt? One of the things you learn from taking ethics courses (of which I had several) is that, beyond widely agreed-upon standards (it’s wrong to kill, for example, or take something that belongs to someone else) the details quickly fade to gray. People find ways of living with themselves while trying to survive in society. An ethics clause in a contract suggests I should live by the standards set by the issuer. It attempts to vouch for my future behavior without knowing my future circumstances. I’m all for ethical behavior, and I try to abide by my own moral code daily. It’s just that putting morality into contracts implies thinking poorly of the party of the second part. Better to add a sanity clause.