Ethics In the Workplace

Document Sample
Ethics In the Workplace Powered By Docstoc
					?We've all heard these rules to live by: Don't hurt, don't steal, don't lie, and the more
famous "Do unto others as you would have done to you." In our personal lives most
people try to follow these rules. Ethics are often thought of by many as something that
is related to the personal side of life and not to the business side. In some businesses,
having ethics may actually be frowned upon. This is usually due to the fact that
business is about doing what's best for the bottom line and not always about doing the
right thing.

It is commonly understood that there are ethics and then there are workplace ethics.
Often we don't stop to realize that there is no difference between personal ethics and
ethics in the workplace; ethics are the same whether at work or in personal life.

After all, ethics are about making choices that may not always feel good or seem like
they benefit you. Ethical choices are the "right" choices to make and are examples of
rules to live by.

Practical Impact
Executives typically want the answers to two key questions about ethics in their
offices: "How do workplace ethics apply to practical goals of my organization and the
work of my employees?" and "Is there reliable data to support these assertions?" The
Ethics Resource Center (/pagead/show_ads.js">

This suggests that most employees are not cynical about ethics at work, encouraging
news when considering the implementation or development of ethics initiatives as the
long term success of any program rely on the active support of employees.

Formal ethics programs and informal ethics practices were shown to affect certain key
outcomes. Employees who work in companies with active ethics programs who
observe leaders modeling ethical behavior, and also observe the application of values
such as honesty, respect and trust applied frequently at work, report more positive
experiences that include the following:
? Less pressure on employees to compromise ethics standards
? Less observed misconduct at work
? Greater willingness to report misconduct
? Greater satisfaction with their organization's response to misconduct they report
? Greater overall satisfaction with their organizations
? Greater likelihood of "feeling valued" by their organizations

Findings of Concern
The NBES uncovered a substantial gap between senior and middle managers and
lower-level employees. A consistent finding with management was the perception that
their organizations have a positive ethical environment. This conflicts with the
perception of lower-level employees however. This suggests that executives may
underestimate the importance of specific ethics issues and concerns facing employees.
This disconnect may also position executives to fail to address these issues adequately
within their organization's ethics programs. Therefore it is important for executives to
include input from employees at lower levels in the development of ethics programs
and to continue to seek out their input and feedback on a regular basis.

In addition to the communications gap between employees and executives, one in
three employees believe that their coworkers will perceive them as "snitches" if they
report misconduct. This is roughly the same proportion of employees who believe that
management will see them as "troublemakers" for reporting ethical concerns. A key
element to take away from this discovery is the need to address and eliminate
retaliation systemically, at the management and peer levels throughout the

Questions Answered
Let's go back to our two key questions: "How do workplace ethics apply to practical
goals of my organization and the work of my employees?" and "Is there reliable data
to support these assertions?" There are a variety of practical reasons for executives to
focus on workplace ethics and reliable data that supports these efforts. The NBES
findings consistently link ethics programs to more positive organizations outcomes
and increased employee satisfaction.

It would be na?ve to suggest that an emphasis on ethics will improve the work
environment and solve the company's problems overnight. In many cases a well
developed and organized effort to target key ethical issues sends an important
message. It tells employees that your organization is moving in a positive direction,
one that is positive for them as individuals.

Establishing an Ethics Program
Establishing an ethics program is not an exact science. As with any organizational
program, it will involve the input and cooperation of many people. The effectiveness
of any organization's approach will depend on characteristics that are unique to its
culture, the leadership styles, proper planning, and so on. Since some people may be
uncomfortable talking about the issues of ethics it can be helpful if management first
asks, considers, and then responds to the following questions:

?   Why might good people in this organization do unethical things?
?   What are our organization's values?
?   Have we adequately articulated these values internally and externally?
?   Does our organization have written ethics policies, procedures, or structures?
?   To whom is our organization accountable?
?   What do we mean by "success"?
?   Does the leadership of our organization support the idea of an ethical workplace?
With the feedback obtained by discussing the questions above, management will have
a better idea of the perceptions their employees have on how the company is
performing ethically.

In the end, it's all about beginning with our personal and collective understanding of
ethics. The second step is awareness of, and solutions to, questions concerning ethics
as applied to the workplace. Many universities are now heavily applying the teaching
of ethics to their curricula. Graduates of these programs take this information into the
workforce with the understanding that solid, positive ethics need to be applied there as
well as in the private sector.

In a perfect world, corporations will be better able to avoid embarrassing scandals that
appear and reappear in both national and world-wide news scandals. Small businesses
will be able to keep and attract more clients and customers. Negotiations between
businesses could be accomplished with increased consideration for the other company.
This is something for which we can all strive.