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Make People Think Ethically in an Organization!

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Ethical Thinking

In simple terms, ethical thinking means sticking to or showing compliance with the rules governing an organization. So, to initiate ethical behavior or thinking in an organization, one has to examine the current process and programs governing the organization.

Let us take a look at the key steps that can guide an organization to think ethically.

Organize your business: Create a governance structure that helps your ethics program to be both independent and important within the organization. An ethical code of conduct needs to be developed that sets ethical standards and provides opportunities for demonstrating them.

Training: A vital aspect of initiating an ethical culture within the organization is to provide training to its executives and employees. Training clarifies what employees are expected to do. It also helps in getting a deeper understanding of an ethical culture’s ability to protect a company’s reputation and to enhance profits. All employees need to know the impact of ethical and unethical practices on the success or failure of the company. Training should be continuous right from hiring to retiring. In each training session, employees must be trained thoroughly on a single ethical concept as this helps to get a deeper understanding.

Anonymous Reporting: A facility where an employee can report unethical behavior anonymously serves to check if any unethical practices are being practiced knowingly or unknowingly in an organization. Anonymity helps because most employees feel uncomfortable in reporting bad behavior, due to fear of possible threat from the guilty person which may directly or indirectly impact their career.

Inculcate ethics in daily routine work: Generate a culture of responsibility, where each employee has the onus of following an ethical culture in day-to-day business practices. Try to solve a problem or difficult business issue by means of role play, and in the process communicate the impact of adhering to a particular business ethic to ensure business success.

Penalty or Reward: To create a culture of compliance, disciplinary measures are critical. Established rewards and penalties are vital to ensure fairness. A system that rewards people fairly- thereby reinforcing ethical behavior, and which metes out appropriate penalties for not adhering to an ethical code needs to be strictly implemented.

Every business small or large should have an ethical culture. Research has also proven that an ethically inclined organization provides an environment where employees are respected, are able to emphasize corporate values, and help in the maximization of profits.

Do share your thoughts on the same.

Click here to view Presentation on Ethics in the Workplace

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  • Sonya Bhakta

    Ethical enforcement starts from the top. Managers can set an excellent examples themselves in own ethical behavior by demonstrating character and personal integrity in their actions and decisions. They can take an uncompromising stand on expecting all employees to adhere to high ethical standards. An organization as a whole can express their commitment to ethical behavior by conveying it in their mission or vision statement as well as by creating code of ethics. And as the article mentioned, reprimand those who behave unethically or are lax in enforcing ethical compliance.

    The problem you run into unfortunately is ethics vary from person to person. They are engrained in us based on our upbringing, life experiences, etc. What maybe perfectly acceptable to one person might be disturbing to another.

    A simple approach to this is to require employees to ask a simple question prior to each decision making: could my action be offensive to majority of the population? If so, it is likely to be an unethical practice. Thus, step back and reconsider your decision.

  • Hi Asma,

    In my work with the London College of Management Studies, ethical behaviour is an area we feel is crucial in supporting international trade.

    Management have a clear role in explaining what they consider is ethical behaviour in an organisation, be that private or public sector. And we are very aware today of organisations that have evolved their own culture, seemingly immune to the outside world. Banks are deeply unpopular at the moment, and the UK government has recently been rapped over the knuckles for claiming ridiculous expenses from the taxpayers purse.

    One way to show what is ethical is to publish successful behaviours, showing the positive results they generate. Which is why the British public opposed so strenuously the MPs suggestion to keep expenses hidden. A recent way to publish “best practice” has been through newsletters, but it is becoming even easier today with modern social networks which can be controlled for internal distribution.

    Another way as you say is to embed ethics, trust and responsibility right through role descriptions and task responsibilities, from recruitment through to assessment and promotion.

    However, as mentioned above, the fresh air of external comment is also needed to ensure management don’t go off the rails and develop their very own “Animal Farm”.

    Top level management need to have a window to the world that gives them a reality check that processes are indeed “ethical”. The ultimate judge is the public, or business clients. In the US, maany companies have realised the wisdom of having public feedback on their websites. Banks still need to get the hugely valuable ethics and product feedback they are missing here.

    One way to retain a sense of ethical balance is for corporates to engage in social responsibility projects. This way they will understand what “fair pay” really is, and perhaps have more of a sense of balance and proportion.

    Great subject, thank you for posting it.

  • You really make it appear so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually one thing which I feel I might never understand. It seems too complex and extremely large for me. I’m looking forward in your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the hang of it!

  • Michael J. Spangle

    The primary difficulty with the concept of creating an ethical culture lies in the significant overlap between ethical thinking and spiritual and/or religious values. Because of the sensitivity to these issues that those in Management are required to both model for their employees and then inculcate in those employees there is considerable trepidation in even stepping into this area.

    Still, for all that, the need to model and teach behaving in a way that embraces personal responsibility and accountability remains. Thus Management is caught between two divergent cultural pressures. One is the idea that there are no absolutes of right and wrong (the “What’s true for you may not be true for me, or how dare you impose your values on me!” syndrome). The second is the punishment that the government/marketplace imposes on that company that fails to act as if such absolutes exist.

    Until such time as we as a culture are comfortable with establishing and/or affirming the existance of absolutes beyond what is declared legal by the Legislature we will never have a firm basis for “Ethical” behavior beyond telling people, “If you do this, and you get caught, you will get into trouble with (fill in the blank) because of (the law/regulation/cultural imperitive of the day).

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