In recent weeks, it seems that everyone has been publicly misbehaving — from athletes (Terrell Owens) to politicians (Lewis “Scooter” Libby) to actors (take your pick). In light of this, one can’t help but wonder whether or not businesspeople should be held to a higher moral code.

To be honest with you, I’ve dealt with my share of honest and dishonest businesspeople over the years. And, as with any group, you cannot pigeonhole an entire subset of the population based on a few of its good or bad apples. What I can tell you, however, is that the factors that prompt politicians, actors and athletes to misbehave are generally the same ones that motivate businesspeople’s poor decisions.

Visibility in the business world

The more money, power and fame an individual has, the more he will believe that he is beyond the reach of the law. Mr. Libby had considerable power. T.O. had money, fame and, within the context of the Philadelphia Eagles organization, considerable power. Actors, while generally powerless, have some money and a lot of fame; yet it is the adulation they receive from others that generally leads to them to believe that they can get away with murder (literally and figuratively).

While many of the world’s most successful businesspeople have more money and power than most politicians, actors and athletes, they are, for all intents and purposes, not famous.

Given that there is less visibility in the business world, a young professional can stagger out of a strip bar and not face the same level of scrutiny that a famous athlete or young actor would. A politician should technically have no business in such an establishment, but many frequent them.

In this context, it’s important to stress that while athletes, actors and politicians can get away with being deviant in private (though they will face scrutiny if news of their discrepancies leaks out into the public domain), businesspeople can be deviant in private and public, providing that their behavior does not affect their performance at work.

Whether they’ve been made clear or not, there are expectations of you…

Professional behavioral expectations

When you work for someone else, they have certain behavioral expectations of you. If you show up bruised from getting into fights every weekend or get hammered every night, it doesn’t matter what your contract says — you are putting yourself at risk one way or another.

If you still manage to perform in spite of your after-hours debauchery, you might be buying yourself some time. But don’t kid yourself. When you work for someone else, they will have expectations of you, whether reasonable or unreasonable. So get used to it.

Of course, you can always argue that some demands are unreasonable, and you may be quite right in doing so. For instance, it’s fair for a sports team to forbid their athletes from participating in extreme sports, but it may not be to attempt to prevent an accountant from doing so.

If your actual role involves being in the public eye and you still misbehave (and yes, I am thinking about the Carolina Panthers cheerleaders in the washrooms), then it is fair game to get the axe.

In any case, your explicit contract and implicit job description should clearly outline what constitutes good and bad behavior so there are no surprises down the road.

Company culture

Another wild card — as always — is the culture you work in. Sometimes being rowdy and raucous is par for the course. Other times, it isn’t. When in doubt, take a cue from the boss. If he lets it all out, chances are you can act as he does.

In the end, as trite and clich as it might sound, no one really cares about the other stuff so long as you get your job done. Or, more accurately, people only care about the other stuff when you fail to get your job done. So bring home the goods, and you’ll be be amazed at what you can get away with.

E-mail of the week:

I am having an affair with my colleague’s girlfriend. Problem is, he is now my boss. What do I do?

Well, first off, you should avoid dating other people’s girlfriends, let alone those of your colleagues. Even if he never becomes your boss, dating a colleague’s girl is a recipe for disaster. Now, you have no choice but to either stop seeing her or, if you hate your job and actually envision something resembling a relationship forming between the two of you, leave your work. But honestly, what kind of relationship can you possibly have with her in the future anyway? Your best bet, or rather, your least damaging bet, is to end the affair and hope no one finds out.

Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at His new book, The Confessions of Alexander The Great: 33 Lessons in Greatness, is available at