For many years, the study of ethics was left to the philosophers. Business people did not see the need and thus practiced “business as usual. There are three reasons why the insurance professional should study ethics:
– Penalties for unethical behavior.
– Ethics for an understanding of business.
– Price of a tarnished reputation.
Penalties for Unethical Behavior
First and foremost, any unethical behavior that is discovered will probably cost far more than any potential gain.
Ethical breaches end careers much more than any other reason. In the past few years, newspaper headlines have screamed of business malpractice in the insurance industry. Not many of these individuals, if any at all, still work in the industry. On an agency level, those agents who made it a practice to “fudge” and made material misstatements on applications, in order to make a commission, are probably no longer in the industry. These are severe penalties for such behavior; however such actions are not only unethical, but also illegal.
Ethics for Understanding Business
Successful insurance professionals understand that their personal ethics are transformed into a successful insurance career. They realize that although business and personal responsibilities can be separated physically, they never will be able to separate their code of ethics. There is no door which automatically admits them into reality at the end of a business day. The ethical code of behavior is part of them and transformed into daily activities, whether it is business or personal pursuits. Thus, it becomes obvious, that the study of ethics by the insurance professional is indeed important.
Since we are called upon to make value judgments every day, how we act, both in our business and personal lives, becomes paramount. A study of ethics enables us to become aware of our thought process and helps us to make sound and ethical decisions.
Price of a Tarnished Reputation
Not every ethical breach is subject to the public spotlight. In many cases, the individual involved keeps his/her job. What does occur is that a reputation is established which is a tarnished one at best! We all have known individuals who established stellar reputations in the business community. Unfortunately, we all know individuals that have questionable reputations and no matter what is ever said to diminish these tarnished reputations, a lingering doubt remains. Interestingly, the individual may not even realize that their behavior has been detected. However, career paths and promotions become blocked and mediocrity sets in. In summary, unethical behavior is a prescription for business disaster.