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We all talk about having a decent pizza, living in a decent home, and having a decent standard of living.


But do we ever intentionally talk about being a decent person?

Or just as importantly, running a decent business?

Meaning of Decency

Oxford English Dictionary defines decent as:

  • Behavior that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability.
    • Behavior or appearance that avoids impropriety or immodesty.
    • The requirements of accepted or respectable behavior.
  • Things required for a reasonable standard of life.

So, for a pizza to be decent, it must conform to an already known standard of taste.  For a standard of living to be decent, it must meet a known standard of living.

Decent People

Decency in people is for them to conform to an “accepted standard of morality or respectability.”  Decent people have good manners, are honest, possess modesty, are civil, courteous, respectable, have dignity, and possess a righteous virtue.

These are all characteristics that affect how a person acts, talks, and thinks.  And they are displayed in how they make decisions and how they relate to people.

Most people would agree that they would always rather interact with someone who is decent than someone who is not.  Yet, many would argue that the characteristics of being decent are in short supply today.  Apparently, some people choose not to be decent?

Decency in Business

Decency with Employees

Displaying decency in business manifests itself in two ways.  The first is how management treats the employees.  Do they know the employee’s names?  Do they give praise for their team publicly?  Do they recognize that employees have interests outside of their employment?

Decencies by management builds bridges between colleagues and engenders a strong sense of community among the workforce.

For management to take advantage of the benefits given through decency, they need to recognize the following.

  1. Actionable. Being decent requires action.  It takes effort by management to learn names, write thank-you notes, and improve communication skills.  To be a decent business requires a culture of decency.  And the culture of decency starts through the actions of management.
  2. Tangible. Being decent is a tangible and observable characteristic.  Employees notice acts of honesty, integrity, and kindness.
  3. Pragmatic. The definition of decency requires a sense of morality and virtue.  This infers an understanding of good judgment and self-control.
  4. Sustainable. Decent leaders have developed decency as a habit.  It is not a one-time effort.  It must become part of the overall corporate culture.

Leaders who demonstrate decency in their interactions with employees and peers are more likely to use that same level of morale and virtues judgment in their business dealings with clients and regulatory agencies.

Decency with the Public

Secondly, decency is displayed in business by the decisions and actions in the course of the business’s interactions with the public.  This principle of decency in business is defined as “where a real opportunity to contribute to the general welfare presents itself, one should have solid moral reasons not to go for it” (Van Luijk).

The important factors in this principle of decency in business are:

  • An opportunity presents itself outside the normal course of business; the business did not go looking for this opportunity.
  • The opportunity will contribute to those outside the normal influence of the business; it is a positive contribution for everyone.
  • The cost of accepting the opportunity is low enough such that it is negligible in the decision process.
  • The reason to not take the opportunity must be overwhelmingly compelling based on some outside moral grounds.

Decency in business is normally called “doing the right thing.”  Examples include converting unused company ground into parks, work to raise money for charity, and providing opportunities to recycle in all business processes.

The Bible

Being a decent person requires an understanding and appreciation for personal morals and virtues.  The only place that these characteristics are consistently found, defined, and explored is in the Bible.

Rom 13:13 says.

Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy.

Likewise, 1 Corinthians 14:40 says.

But all things should be done with regard to decency and propriety and in an orderly fashion.

Page after page of the Bible contains story and verse that explains morality and virtuousness.

Being decent in business is good for business.  The employees benefit as well as the customers and the public.  If questions arise as to what it takes to be decent, you will find the answers in the Bible.