Tips For Communicating Workplace Ethics. Ethics is the moral guidelines that a company follows to comply with laws. Workplace ethics are the essentially moral standards that shape a person’s conduct in their workplace.
According to the 2018 Global Benchmark on Workplace Ethics, one in five employees feels pressure to compromise standards. Globally. Around 33% of employees said they had personally witnessed misconduct in the workplace in the past 12 months.
Another study by Walker International found that just 59% of working adults in the United States thought their organization is highly ethical overall.
Unethical behavior can range in its consequences from being outright illegal and resulting in criminal charges against individuals and/or the company involved, through to consumer boycott, lost revenue, falling stock prices and in the end, the collapse of the entire company.
Examples of good ethics in the workplace
Many companies have corporate values statements that highlight to employees and the wider community what the company stands for.
Ethics may vary depending on the occupation or industry of your employees.
In general, however, these are considered to be good ethics:
- Acting with integrity
Many customers have their standards and expectations when it comes to ethics and companies, particularly around concerns such as slavery, treatment of workers, corruption, and whether the company is contributing to climate change.
For example, they may seek out clothing or coffee that has been manufactured by a company that understands its supply chain and can guarantee that the product has been both produced in a sustainable way, but also by workers who are paid a living wage.
Recent years have seen companies forced to change many aspects of their business such as using single-use plastic straws or plastic bags and packaging that can’t be recycled as customers concerned about climate change push back against this.
Examples of unethical behavior in the workplace
Heading to the collapse of companies such as WorldCom.
Common ethical dilemmas in workplaces include:
Unethical misconduct by leadership – for example when the CEO or other senior managers can spend money inappropriately, take bribes, bully or harass subordinates, or direct employees to act unlawfully or unethically. Discrimination and harassment –as we’ve seen with the global #metoo movement, sexual harassment and assault and sexual discrimination in the workplace have been brought to the fore as a major issue for many industries.
Other types of discrimination can include disability, race, religion, and sexual preference.
Poor workplace culture – the saying a “fish rots from the head down” can apply to many companies where poor leadership results in a toxic workplace culture where bullying, fraud, and other unethical behaviors are rife.
Fraud – fraud doesn’t always mean someone is stealing money or stock from the company, they might be also inappropriately using company resources for personal gain.
Misusing technology – this has become more common in the modern era. Many companies give internet to their staff and they don’t mind if they use it for personal purposes.
Lying – whether it’s management telling lies to employees or coworkers lying to one another, being dishonest is never a good idea.
Inappropriate workplace relationships – relationships between staff can get messy for many reasons. It can lead to claims of favoritism when the relationship is between a manager and a subordinate. There can be consequences outside the workplace too if the relationship involves an extramarital affair.
How to improve ethics in your workplace
Understanding ethics basics can help you guide your employees’ behavior. When they understand what is considered acceptable and what’s not, they are more likely to make better decisions. Steps you can take include:
Have a code for employees that outlines the ethical behavior you expect from them. Employees who don’t adhere to the code can be given warnings and even be fired.
Build a positive culture where employees feel they can speak up to report any unethical behavior, without recriminations or reprisals.
Train your employees on ethics as part of their induction process to the company, and follow up with annual refresher training.
Communicate the importance of integrity wherever possible.
Have your CEO and senior managers lead by example.
Communicating ethics within your company
Keeping the importance of ethics is essential if you want to improve ethical behavior in your workplace. Communicating the importance of ethical behavior should be ongoing – don’t just rely on the fact you have a policy and expect people to find it and read it.
In a smaller company, where there aren’t too many employees it can be easier for senior management to know and personally interact with every staff member to discuss ethics.
When your workforce is large, spread across different geographic locations and you have new people joining the company all the time, communicating your company’s ethical stance is important to ensure your standards of integrity don’t slip.