Doing the Right Thing

Posted on November 21, 2011. Filed under: Career, Life | Tags: , , |

As an intern or entry-level employee, you will make mistakes.  This is normal, should be expected to some degree, and it doesn’t have to be a big black mark on your employment record.  What makes the difference is how you handle your mistakes.

 Do you ignore your error, even if it’s small, and hope no one notices?  No.

Do you deny responsibility? No.  Blame someone else? No.

Do you own up to it immediately, correct it and move on?  Yes!  This is called doing the right thing.  It might seem obvious, but it can be difficult in practice.

No matter how small the mistake, taking responsibility demonstrates ethics in the workplace and reveals something about your character to your employer and others.

Doing the right thing is never wrong, but it might not be easy.  It might not be popular, it might not be acceptable in a particular work culture, it may anger supervisors, and it may even jeopardize your job.  However, it is worth it to know that you acted in a way that is representative of your personal values.

Doing what is morally right, as opposed to legally or in accordance with work policy, may not be popular, but it defines who you are.  YOU are the one who gets to decide if your actions are morally sound.  Others may determine if you acted legally or within company policy, but the question of morality is one only you can judge.

How do you determine what is morally right?  My personal test involves my gut and a mirror.  We all have instincts that often appear as a bubbling in your stomach that rises up when something just doesn’t seem right.  Don’t ignore your gut.  Am I able to look at myself in the eye (mirror required) and like what I see? 

 If the answer is yes, I have stayed true to my personal values.  If not, I need to go back and fix it.

I’m not attempting to equate making a minor mistake on a report at work to the events as serious as those unfolding at Penn State, but how both of these situations are handled speaks to the character of those involved.

Values, morals and character are somewhat subjective terms, so it is left up to the individual to define them.  It’s not something that is established one day and known thereafter.  Instead, it’s a lifelong process of learning from mistakes and experiences that makes you better able to judge whether or not you have done the right thing.

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