A few years back I wrote a book called, "Ethically Thinking, It's Not That Hard." I wrote the book based on how I have been touched in life by unethical events. When you travel abroad on business or trying to run a business in another foreign country, you learn a lot about unethical activities that take place every single day. When I opened a call center and nursing review school in the Philippines, unethical behavior happened every single day. It was a learning experience that helped me form a book on ethics.
We were one of the first companies back in the early part of 2000 that were putting up call centers in the Philippines. After we put up one of the first ones then big companies moved in next door. Converges and People Support were big organization, and they filled their call centers with people. It was like a new industry where manufacturing had moved to China and call centers moved to the Philippines. To open a business in the Philippines you must of course set up a legal entity, which we did by ourselves. We tried to hire attorney's there, but it was really worthless. Let me give you an example. One of the attorneys we were speaking to came into the office for a meeting, at the end of the meeting he said, "listen, if you know anyone in the United States that needs a kidney or heart, I can arrange it here in the Philippines." That was the end of that conversation, it was neither ethical nor appropriate.
The bank that we did business in was on the first floor of the building, I went down one day and found the attorney reading our corporate information with the banker. Same thing happened with the guards in our building, I left a letter down at the front desk for a pickup by a client, I forgot to add something to the letter and went down to retrieve it and the guards had opened my letter and was reading it. They saw me and ran out the back door. So, when you are doing business in a foreign country you have be focused on doing ethical work in an unethical environment. When they see their leaders acting unethical, the people follow.
One of the hard parts of running a business from afar is monitoring what is going on within the offices. I decided to do a surprise visit, I told no one I was flying to the Philippines. My team came in at different shift times. The first shift came in earlier to cover the eastern side of the United States. I loved the project they were working on. We can a contract with a product placement company out of Hollywood California where they use our staff to place products in various movies and television shows. We would get the scripts and go through them and find products that could be placed within the production. It was a great job because we got to see the scripts of these movies and television venues about to come out. However, here is the however part of any story. I flew into the Philippines and landed at night and went straight to the call center. I walked into the office, and I thought it strange that I heard no phone calls going on and the lights were dim. I walked into the sections that were working on product placement and found them all asleep on the floor. They had pillows and blankets, they were all prepared to sleep, not to work. I let them go immediately. Now I did not know that when you let someone go in the Philippines you have to give them thirty days and pay them their thirteenth month pay. Everyone in the Philippines get paid for thirteen months a year, by law. They then took me to the labor commission demanding 500,000 pesos and that drug on for two years until I sat down and made them an offer that was in line with one month pay. Not very ethical to be sleeping on the job when clients are paying us to do a job. Ethics was not at work in that office.
I am writing about the Philippines because that was a big venture to do, and it is still fresh in my mind. Unethical behavior happens all over this globe, it isn't just in one place, it is all over. In America, we see it in our politics. We see it in various investments. The one that comes to mind is bitcoin and crypto. Right now, there are a lot of people who are playing games on line with people and fraud happens. If a currency is so good, then why is there so much fraud in the game? The moral of this is that we have unethical activity all around us, and it is too easy to be swayed because money is too tempting. When we see unethical activity around us, and if we are not strong enough ethically, it is easy to go down the wrong road. I don't know who said this, but it goes like this, "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right.". Let us end it there.
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Michael Lodge is a Nationally Certified Professional Mediator specializing in business disputes, as well as family conflicts. He has written three books and hosts an international podcast on IHeartRadio and other podcast media stations.