Ethics are the moral principles that govern the behaviour of individuals, guiding their conduct in every aspect of their lives, including at workplace. While every person possesses an inherent understanding of right & wrong, varying cultural and personal backgrounds affect their implementation. Also as humans, we tend to weigh the benefits and consequences of our actions and look for the path of least resistance, where we would suffer the fewest consequences. Therefore to ensure consistency in understanding and practice across all levels, organisations often establish frameworks & policies to shape work practices, interactions, and behaviour within an organisation.
Ethics are thought of by many people as something that is related to the private side of life and not to the business side. But, ethics have just as much a spot in public as they do in private. Business leaders have a key role to play in this. Infact, as leaders, the importance of being ethical must be emphasised more, not less. They carry the responsibility of shaping the ethical culture of their businesses, and thereby influence their broader communities as well. Leaders must always be conscious of the fact that they are in a fishbowl and how they behave is clearly visible to everyone. Whatever they do will not only be seen by others, but may be duplicated as well. Leaders who act ethically not only set a positive tone at their company but also reap additional benefits.
Around 40% of employees consider ethical gauges to be the first or second-most important workplace attribute.
So, here are some ways that companies can encourage ethics in the workplace, secure and retain the best talent, and mitigate the risk of non-compliance.
- TRANSPARENCY - THE BEDROCK OF ETHICS:
Transparency means the organisation being upfront and visible about the actions it takes, and whether those actions are consistent with its values or not. It ensures that employees have easy access to information crucial to their job. This type of understanding between employers & employees fosters trust and leads to a successful organisation. The best that can be done here is to make sure that everyone from senior managers to administrators down to forefront employees and so on, are on the same page. When the understanding of values, policies, ethics, communication standards, etc. are the same from the bottom to the top, it doesn't leave much room for misunderstanding.
When the management is open and communicates effectively with those below them, those employees will be more likely to communicate effectively with those beneath them and so on down the line - The Trickle Effect of Organisational Inclusiveness.
- PROVIDE PROTECTIVE MEASURES:
The organisations should provide formal mechanisms that allow employees to debate ethical dilemmas and report unethical behavior without worrying of being reprimanded. Managers should set up seminars and workshops to promote ethics in the workplace. Training sessions not only address ethical dilemmas but also clarify the practices which are and are not permissible within an organisation thereby reinforcing their standards of conduct
- REWARD ETHICAL BEHAVIOUR:
It has been rightly said, “What gets rewarded gets repeated."
Employees spend a large portion of their time at work, so it’s critical that employees feel a sense of honesty and integrity in the workplace. Organisations need to recognise when people do the right thing and also make clear that a win-at-all-cost mentality is not always acceptable.
There are various ways of incentivising ethics in an organisation. Firstly, only those employees should be promoted who demonstrate ethical behaviour.
Secondly, leaders should be trained in order to recognise and commend employees for acting in ways that align with workplace ethics and finally a peer and supervisor nomination system should be followed that recognises employees for ethical behaviour.
Providing incentives not only reinforces the values of ethics but also fosters a sense of pride and agency within the company. Intrinsic motivations are always more persuasive than extrinsic motivations.
Maintaining an ethical environment at workplaces is as much as an employee's responsibility as it is the employer’s. Here are some of the approaches that employees should adopt in order to nurture ethical conduct within an organisation.
- DEFINE YOUR VALUES:
Values are nothing but the acts and actions which we make in our daily life. An employee should not only define his values but also include honesty as a core one. What do we do when we make an error at work? Do we admit it or do we cover our error and hope that no one finds out? Rationalising the consequences, what strikes our mind would be “If I will be too honest and tell my boss, I might disappoint her or may not get that raise due next month. ”
When we try to conceal our errors, we aren’t thinking about the team but ourselves. So, we need to have a clear conscience of the greater value to us, honesty or self-protection.
- WATCH OUT FOR SLIPPERY SLOPE:
Every organisation has a line that separates appropriate behavior from the inappropriate kind. Organisations often get into trouble when they ignore unethical behavior because it is considered to be a no big deal. This is because their line of what is acceptable keeps sliding down the slope and as a result they cease to exist. Employees also shouldn’t play jump rope with what is acceptable behaviour, as by doing so they only are moving their line farther down the slope. Organisations must always stand firm on their intolerance of any dishonesty and unethical behaviour.
- RESPECT YOUR COLLEAGUES:
It shouldn’t matter whether you are dealing with an intern, a junior, a manager or the CEO, they should all be treated with dignity and respect. As a manager, treating your team members with respect improves their productivity manifold. Even when they are not able to deliver perfectly, providing constructive criticism and saying kind words helps them strive to do better in the future. Recent surveys have shown that organisations that work on building and maintaining ethical workplace cultures are more likely to be financially successful, as well as having more motivated and productive employees.
Fortunately more and more corporations are now realising that ethics are not checked at the door while entering the workplace but go hand-in-hand with the everyday routine. Organisations that follow a strict Code of Ethics symbolise professionalism and foster both healthy external & internal relations. After all, being a professional requires more than wearing a nice suit.