I just read this post by Joan Eisenstodt on ethics in challenging times like these...and how some might be taking the downturn in the economy as a license to steal, basically (though she says it much more nicely than that).
Is it easier to lower your standards when money gets tight? Does having less make it seem less wrong to double dip, or take something that's not rightfully yours? I've had some pretty tight times in my life, and I'm glad to say I didn't lower my ethical standards to survive--though I did have to lower my standard-of-living standards quite a bit and take on some really awful jobs to make ends meet. Then again, I'm not that fussy and, while I like "stuff" as much as the next person, I don't define myself by my stuff, so it's not too hard to let most of it go if need be.
However, if I was starving, would I steal? Yeah, I probably would, and would likely be able to justify that to myself. But in the case Joan talks about where employees are setting up "side companies and seeking (and securing!) commission on the very meetings they are being paid to book and manage," I don't see how anyone could talk themselves into thinking that was OK, not matter how light a planner's wallet might be.
So I guess my ethics are situational to a degree, but it has to be a pretty dire situation before I'd chuck my ethics under the bus. And you?