A Children’s Story Lesson on Ethics

One night while putting my daughter, Genevieve (4), to bed I came across a message in the book she chose that sparked my interest on a professional level. The book chosen was about teaching kids the power of affirmations titled “I Think, I Am!” by Louise L Hay. As we went through the pages, we discussed how the situations the main character faced affected her daily life. We reached a page that contained an important lesson not only for children but also for business professionals. The sentence said, “If your friends all want you to go their way, it’s easy to think…If I don’t do what they want, they will be mad at me. Do what is right for you and tell yourself…I stand up for what is important to me.”

Examining the situation in the book, I was reminded of the interrelation between the Fraud Triangle and Ethics. The Fraud Triangle, developed by Donald R Cressy includes three concepts, 1) perceived un-sharable pressure, 2) opportunity, and 3) rationalization. The character in the book is faced with the un-sharable pressure, and desire to make her friends happy, an opportunity to follow her friends, and the ability to rationalize her actions. This parallels situations where an accountant makes a journal entry to achieve a desired financial result, a program coordinator provides services to ineligible recipients or hiring personnel offers a job to an unqualified applicant as a favor.

The affirmation in the second sentence occurs when the character chooses to take a stand for his/her values. While the situation involved the playground setting, the character was faced with a decision. Do I partake in an activity or do I do what is important to me? In this situation the character applied, more or less, Ethics Filters, grouped into the mnemonic PLUS:

  • P = Policies
  • L = Legal
  • U = Universal
  • S = Self – Does it satisfy my personal definition of right, good and fair?

The character in the book chose to make a decision that satisfied her personal beliefs. In the business environment, individuals are faced with decisions every day where the mnemonic device above can be applied.

Every day individuals face choices with ethical dilemmas. As business owners, board members or stakeholders in an organization, it is important to be aware of fraud and ethical risks. Awareness and acceptance that fraud can happen in any organization are vital to protecting the assets and reputation of an organization.

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