A Publication of WTVP

At this time of year, New Year’s resolutions are all the rage in offices and plant floors, as well as in homes and even relationships. When we come to the end of 2007, we review business results, budget conditions and, for some of us, market performance. We also take stock of job performance—what we have achieved, what we have done well and where we need to improve. We set goals for 2008.

The reason work resolutions are so often meaningless is that they are not specific.

We also think about our personal behaviors and habits—especially the ones which impact the quality of our work and our work relationships. No one ever achieves perfection, though a few people seem to think otherwise about themselves (and make sure we know!). Others don’t think they can be consistent in the pursuit of excellence and decide that they will try to do the best they can at work.

Perhaps the first personal resolution at work, then, is to improve the quality of our efforts and identify specific things we want to accomplish in our careers. A resolution never works when it is too general: “I will do better at work every day.” What does that mean? The reason work resolutions are so often meaningless is that they are not specific. We can’t define how we would do better at work. We wouldn’t know what demonstrates “doing better.” Such a work resolution is similar to personal ones like “I will lose some weight.” How much? Over what amount of time? Will it be for good? These are the important questions.

Over the years, I have found it helpful to define specific life strategies and goals for improvement in my work performance and my life relationships. Here’s one example: “I resolve to expand my area of reach in consulting.” At this time, I have several lines of consulting business. I need to broaden into one more line, and also into one additional service in the existing lines. Another example: In 2008, I need to finish the book I am writing, for which I have a publisher. These two strategies will keep me busy in the coming year, together with goals and objectives in my current business.

But what about ethical resolutions? To be good business people, we need to examine our ethical choices in 2007. What went very well? Where have I been a little uncomfortable in my business activities? Have I used money, time and talent in fair and ethical ways? This path is even harder to negotiate because we typically don’t have an objective view of self. We are unable to identify ethical shortcomings in business practices.

So we may need the help of our spouses, trusted co-workers, valued customers and close friends in order to sort through the maze of good and bad choices made during the past year. If we ask, they can give us feedback about good and poor choices we made. They can help us determine where we need to improve in how we treat people in business, where we have gained and lost trust and how we can improve in handling people, property and money.

Going this deep can be a real challenge. We have to confront familiar attitudes and behaviors and determine how we can make changes to bring more fairness and grace into the way we do business and how we live our lives. How we make and implement these changes can be a real stretch. We have to get in touch with our humanity. If we are honest in our self-reviews concerning business ethics, we know how we need to make changes to live a better business life, much less how we make changes for self-improvement and growth.

As we know, however, any of us can go only so far in making ethical resolutions, particularly in the workplace. For meaningful change to occur, we need to make resolutions and positive change as a workplace. As a company, an office, a department or retail outlet, we need to resolve as a workplace or business. We can certainly reaffirm existing patterns of excellence in business practice, but we need to publicly avow that we, as employees, need to resolve to deliver consistent quality and service and identify ways in which we need to change for customer satisfaction. We can also let our customers know what resolutions guide us to improve what we do and what we offer. As we resolve to improve the ethical conditions of the workplace, we will have a positive impact on every other area of our business. IBI