Selfishness is NOT next to godliness: An Antidote to Corruption


The 9th of December is International Anti-corruption Day, and corruption is rife at the moment.

When you have senior politicians and business leaders downplaying their corruption as business as usual, Houston we have a problem.

The UN states “Corruption affects all areas of society. Preventing corruption unlocks progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, helps protect our planet, creates jobs, achieves gender equality, and secures wider access to essential services such as healthcare and education. 

“The 2021 International Anti-Corruption Day seeks to highlight the rights and responsibilities of everyone – including States, Government officials, civil servants, law enforcement officers, media representatives, the private sector, civil society, academia, the public and youth – in tackling corruption.

Barrett has always stood for and endorsed human-centred, ethical, fair and sustainable sales and business practices because it is good for people, good for sales and business, and good for our economy and flourishing societies.

Human biology and behavioural research tell us that humans are born curious and helpful with deep need for fairness. As pro social creatures we work best when we collaborate, engage in collective problem solving, and find ways to make things better for ourselves and those around us. And we feel really good about ourselves too when we make a difference for others. Ironically true self-interest is mutual interest, working for the common good.

However, many have lost connection with our true nature having been taught something entirely different over the last 40+ years. Traditional economic theory has espoused that selfishness is next to godliness and that markets are most efficient when individuals act rationally to maximise their own self-interest without regard to the effects on others and we are now seeing the dire consequences of that theory playing out in real time: increases in corruption, inequality, poverty, housing stress, climate distress, environmental degradation, and so on.

As Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer point out in their article, Traditional Economics Failed. Here’s a New Blueprint, ‘Conventional wisdom conflates self-interest and selfishness. It makes sense to be self-interested in the long run. It does not make sense to be reflexively selfish in every transaction. And that, unfortunately, is what market fundamentalism and libertarian politics promote: a brand of selfishness that is profoundly against our actual interest.’

We know that where there’s corruption there will always be poor or no governance, lack of transparency, nepotism, poor work conditions that exploit the vulnerable, high staff turnover, tax avoidance, unethical leaders, and profit maximisation and cost stripping at the expense of sustainability, underpinned by vested interests, at the helm of enterprises looking for self-enrichment at our expense promoting the ‘greed is good’ mantra.

Corruption erodes trust, it erodes relationships, and it erodes the social contract a society relies upon to prosper. Without transparency, integrity, good governance, and trustworthiness we cannot create healthy human relationships and partnerships or flourishing businesses and societies which leaves us all vulnerable and weak.

What does that mean for sales and service teams?

Salespeople are at the front line where the seeds of trusted relationships begin; we must encourage ethical, human-centred sales practices and engage everyone across our organisations to be part of the chain of trust and service. 

It means looking after customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and the planet. Human-centred selling is the means by which we create and generate opportunity that is honourable as well as sustainable. It’s about putting humanity back on the corporate map and endorsing buying and selling experiences that treat people with dignity and respect.

If we come back to the purpose of business as defined by Peter Drucker in his work The Age of Discontinuity, 1953, “The purpose of business is NOT to make profit but to satisfy the needs and expectations of customers. The consequence of satisfied customers is incremental profit.”

This is not some new age, woke, progressive concept.

Business is an answer to human needs, therefore it is our duty to fight corruption and be human-centred for all the right reasons.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.


Related topics

Human-centred sales operations – Being Businessworthy
Unethical Self-Promoters – how a few bad apples spoil it for everyone
Selling in times of social mistrust

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