How much does 21st Century business behaviour reflect the seven deadly sins?

The seven deadly sins are something we ‘ve all heard of, first published by Pope Gregory the Great, and gone on to inspire all sorts of writers, film and TV directors, and even food. An article in Intelligent Life revisited the seven deadly sins in today’s society using a range of guest writers and whilst some of them considered the impact on the economy it got me to thinking about businesses and how business behaviour may or may not reflect the deadly sins.

The sins whilst perhaps no longer thought of in the same way as leading to hell and damnation are still part of a moral code most people have but what’s the moral code in business? One person’s moral code or business ethics may not be another’s. The way that business is being done has created all sorts of issues, potentially resulted in significant global market impacts and shaken the foundations of institutions and contributed to the demise of many businesses.


I’ve often write about authenticity in business and having personal and business values and its where these values don’t exist, are ignored or are forgotten as the dollar signs appear in people’s eyes that’s created not just an imbalance but short term gain for long term failure or in the case of banking a longer term gain that’s had wide sweeping long term unfavourable implications for the rest of business and the economy.

In this blog we’ll explore two of the seven deadly sins and in future blogs will look at the other sins, reflect on the writers thoughts and look at how they are appearing in business.

Envy – Richard Holloway writer and broadcaster pointed out that to sin could be seen as being to ‘miss the mark’ and that we aim to do the right thing, and on the whole that’s true. Our personal moral compass and values guides us in this way even if we don’t necessarily agree with the actions of others.

Envy is one of those feelings that drives people in a way that can be subtle to start with but as it eats away can make them behave more and more ‘out of character’ or even unethically. Holloway points to malice and hypocrisy. And that reminds me of how so many businesses focus on the failings of other businesses, services or people. How many times has someone started to talk to you as a potential client and then started to run down other people who provide a similar service. Even before they have found out anything much about you, your business, the needs and wants.

I’ve chosen not to do business with people because of this. There’s no fairness in this kind of behaviour, as Holloway says its just being sly and bordering on malicious, which is quite a strong word but true of what’s seen in social media and the press. Its not always easy to avoid when in conversation with others and sometimes we need extreme tact and diplomacy. I have to be vey tactful when drawn into a conversation about other consultants and coaches. Their ethos and way of working may not be mine but that’s not to say that their wrong and I’m right, we simply do things differently.

Gluttony – Aminatta Forna professor of creative writing at Bath Spa university, says she’s often written about the sins of previous generations to foresee or prevent calamity. And wonders what will our generation’s greatest shame be? Her point is so well made that in Africa if someone loses their fortune they say he ‘ate it’ and suggests that future generations will look across empty seas, razed rain forests and dust bowls and when asking what happened to the earth say ‘they ate it’.

A chilling but probably accurate foretelling unless we all start to take more massive action, responsibility and accountability.

Gluttony in business and commerce comes in all shapes and sizes from more and more clever accountants finding ways to avoid paying taxes, to cutting and further cutting costs which has very wide reaching impacts on health and safety, quality, working conditions and pay, use of less ‘eco friendly materials and so on. It led to the ‘meat scandal’ in 2013 and was the main contributor to the sub prime mortgage issues and so much of what led up to 2008 and beyond.

It’s where authenticity is left at the door, it’s eats away at the heart of businesses and the people in the businesses.

Gluttony is always looking to making more and more money without thinking about how its going to be done, the impact and sustainability in all its meanings.

It drives individuals and businesses (after all they are run by the individuals) to take risks, get away with it and take more risks. Others turn a blind eye as it’s bringing in cash.

Gluttony in business is aligned to the other sins of lust, greed and ingratitude…

Fat cats are maybe called that for a reason?

In the rest of this series we’ll explore the other deadly sins and also look at the seven virtues and how they are slowly becoming more open in business as people are changing how they do business.

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