Who’s the boss?

When I started my career, if someone asked me who my boss was, I would simply point down the hall and say, “The guy in that room because he can fire me.” But that was then, and this is now. Today, business has changed for the better, and everyone now works in a new world of accountability and transparency that includes a key social responsibility component.

Companies now have multiple and more vocal bosses. They’re called customers who can fire an organization by choosing to no longer do business with them.

From the largest to the smallest companies, all must closely examine the constituents or bosses they serve and how they deliver their products or services. This means how the organization “behaves” and carries out its goals on an everyday basis. Just delivering on a promise to provide agreed-upon goods, so to speak, no longer cuts it. What is critical are the perceptions of owners, shareholders, communities, employees, suppliers and even regulators. Companies employing the “end justifies the means” methods run the risk of incurring wrath from any or all of these different company bosses.

Every organization today must have an internally established and documented “Business Conscience.” This is nothing more than creating a manifesto on how a company will function for the greater good without inappropriately discriminating against anyone. How a business does it is equally important as doing it.

I have written frequently about what I call “The Mother Rule” in my previous columns and books. Essentially the underpinning of this principle is: “I shouldn’t do anything if I know my mother wouldn’t approve.” Most of the time, this was out of respect but on occasion also out of fear. In its simplest form, this is how organizations should operate, too.

A corporate conscience must also provide a “safe or demilitarized zone” where everybody works together to accomplish the objectives at hand and refrains from imposing or subjecting others to non-business-related beliefs. This not only includes employees but leadership and owners as well. It’s unacceptable for the hierarchy to use its bully pulpit to persuade or influence employees or suppliers on matters of political, religious or other beliefs not related to doing business or getting the job done.

Similarly, in my opinion, an organization should not use its public voice, financial resources and political clout to attempt to influence its customers with a particular bias. If those in power want to change the thinking on matters that might arguably be out of the organization’s wheelhouse, these efforts should be made on their personal time using their personal dime.

Whether one is the CEO or at the lowest rung of the ladder, everyone first must answer to themselves. It starts with recognizing that everyone’s most important boss is also their conscience. If asked to do something patently wrong, it’s time to say no.

At the risk of imposing my opinion and using this column as my bully pulpit, I submit you can’t go wrong by adhering to “The Mother Rule.

Visit Michael Feuer’s website www.TipsFromTheTop.info to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”