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Using the Four Way Test to Help Others
Taylor was the author of the Four Way Test in 1932. Is the ethical test still
practical today? Of course, it is. If you are a person that cares about ethical
values and what is right, it can become very disheartening to continue to hear
of news stories day after day of someone who has destroyed thousands of
people’s lives from both a financial and emotional standpoint.
you must ask yourself the questions of, “Where has the concept of right and
wrong gone? Have we allowed ourselves to become a society that accepts
unethical behavior as a norm or standard? Has winning at all costs become the
unwritten mission statement of businesses and sports teams everywhere?” Yet,
many times when we become aware of someone we know who is involved in some
unethical activity, we just turn our heads and pretend it’s not happening.
Isn’t that condoning an activity we should be opposed to?
the people who have been affected by unethical behavior, that are the ones who
are willing to speak up. What we all need to do is take a step back and look at
the big picture and say, “Wait a minute. No, this is not a standard I want and
it’s not one I want for my family.” As Rotarians, I believe you and I have an
opportunity to help reverse this unethical trend.
We need to share the ethical message of the
Four Way Test with everyone. That’s right. We don’t need to leave it at our
meeting place. Speaking to clubs across our nation, I have often heard clubs
repeat it during their meeting. What benefit is that, if when you leave your
meeting place, you forget all about it? I believe we need to share it with
everyone and I have four suggestions how to accomplish that goal.
1. We all need to examine our own lives
and make sure we are leading a good ethical life. As Rotarians, we need to
promote ethical living. We need to promote the Four Way Test and we need to
“talk the talk”, but we also need to “walk the walk”. We all need to be an
example of what is good and right to everyone we know. None of us lead perfect
ethical lives, but everyone you know should know where you stand on any ethical
2. We need to share the ethical message of the
Four Way Test with everyone in our workplace. It doesn’t matter your business
or profession or if it is profit or non-profit. It doesn’t matter if you work
with just one other person, or hundreds of people, you need to share this
message with everyone in your workplace. Now let’s look at some important
questions that should be asked.
A. For a message of ethics and integrity
to be effective in any organization, who needs to deliver that message? The
obvious answer is the business owners and those in management. Leading by
example can be a very powerful tool when it comes to ethical values.
B. Are you treating your customers,
clients, etc. fairly? Are you selling them the product you advertise? When
businesses face tough economic times, they sometimes are tempted to substitute
a lower quality product for the one advertised to help the bottom line. When
times get tough, as Rotarians, we should raise our character to its highest
level, to help avoid falling prey to that temptation.
C. Are you treating your employees
fairly? Are they being compensated at a level that is prevailing in your area?
Do you make them feel like they are an important part of your organization? Or
do they feel like they are just another number? Treat your employees fairly.
3. We need to share this ethical message
with everyone we care about. Obviously, this includes all your
family members. It might include your next-door neighbor, all close friends and
perhaps your daughter’s soccer coach. Everyone you care about, should know
about the Four Way Test. Make sure they all know how important it is to you, to
do what is right.
4. If you become aware of someone you
know that is involved in some unethical activity, you need to try and help that
person. The best way to start that process, is to talk to the person about it.
By opening the line of communication regarding the unethical behavior, you
might just make the person aware of what he or she was trying to avoid thinking
about because deep down they knew it was wrong. Be persistent, as you might be
one of the few people they respect enough to cause them to change their ways.
How important is it to act with integrity and high ethical standards
toward everyone we meet, including complete strangers who we may never see
again? Will it make any difference? Let me answer that by sharing a personal
story of how a stranger changed my life when I was 25 years old with his ethics
Nearing the end of my enlistment serving in the United States Air Force,
I went to check out a computer programing school in Oklahoma City, Ok. I had
decided to pursue a career as a computer programmer. I toured the facilities
and took an entrance exam. After lunch I met with owner of the school for an
interview. He seemed very excited and told me I had scored higher on the exam
than anyone in a long time. He told me all my expenses would be paid for and
after successful completion of the school, he not only guaranteed me that he
would find me a job, he guaranteed me a starting salary of approximately 3
times what I was currently making.
I was so excited, I asked where to sign as I wanted to enroll in that
school right then. The owner pointed out I had over 2 years of college
completed on the transcript I had provided. He suggested that if I ever wanted
to be in management, where I could make more money, or even become President of
the company I worked for someday, I would need a college degree. He then
suggested if I wanted to be a computer programmer, I should consider some business-related
field like accounting.
He would not allow me to enroll in the school that day, but suggested I
think about what he had told me for a few days and call him back and let him
know. As I began to reflect on what he had advised me, what he said began to
make a lot of sense to me. I decided to return to my home state in Arkansas and
enroll in college and major in accounting like he had suggested.
While attending college, my Dad, who was a CPA, offered me a part time
job with his firm which developed into a 40-year career for me as a CPA. I owe
it all to the owner of the computer programming school, who demonstrated
remarkable ethics and integrity. That man did not advise me like I was a
stranger. He advised me like I was his own son. He told me to do what was right
for me, not what was right for him or his school and I will be forever grateful
The original question was, “Will it make any difference if we act toward
complete strangers with ethics and integrity?” It made a difference in my life and I am
convinced it will make a difference in other’s lives as well.
Let me provide a very practical and impressive way to recognize young
people in your community who have demonstrated good ethical behavior. My club
in Sherwood, Arkansas, USA ( District 6150 ) has been holding an Ethics Awards
Ceremony for students of our local schools for over 25 years.
Eight winners are chosen, 4 girls and 4 boys, from students who have been
nominated by teachers and counselors at local schools. Neither academics,
athletic ability nor popularity are considered by those making nominations. It
is based on the student’s character and ethics. At the awards ceremony, we
invite the winners and their families as well as school and district officials
and the teachers and counselors who nominated the students.
All the winners are individually introduced, given a plaque indicating
they are the “Ethics Winner” for that year and they are also given cash. The
members of our club have long believed that by both recognizing and rewarding
young people for demonstrating good ethical behavior now, will have an impact
on their ethical behavior in the future.
Perhaps it will have an impact on the guests and family members in
attendance. Over the years, family members have sometimes shared they first
learned of their child’s ethical deed or deeds because of, or at the awards
ceremony. What a great way to promote Rotary in the community and for a great
reason, recognizing young people for demonstrating good ethical behavior.
Please consider holding a similar event in your community.
Believe in your ability to make a difference in the ethical values of the
people you know. We all have that power, but we may underestimate our ability
to use it to influence the ethical values of those we know. Because unethical
behavior is such a critical issue today, please get involved. We don’t need to
wait for others to promote ethical behavior.
As Rotarians, we need to take a leadership role in ethics. I challenge
you to seize every opportunity when it presents itself, speak up for ethical
behavior and stand up for what is right, even if you are the only one standing.
Unfortunately, the power of greed may overcome a good upbringing and common
sense. To counter this, I feel we need to continue to educate and remind
everyone about ethical values and the truth. Rotary has a great tool, it is
called…. The Four Way Test.
You can make a difference. Rotary has been making a difference in
people’s lives all over the world for over 100 years because of Rotarians.
Rotarians just like YOU.
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- By Guinn Massey, Rotary Club of Sherwood Arkansas
opinions expressed in this Make-up Article do not necessarily represent the
opinions of Rotary eClub One and its editorial staff