Ethics In Business: Bridging The Gap

It is very important to have a written and established ethics policy in place for any company or business. If there is not, a lot of dishonest behavior can be skirted on the justification that there is nothing written that forbids it. Unfortunately, there are companies that do not have such policies or the one they do have is very out dated. Having a policy is not enough. Employees should know the policy, the expectations of following it, and the consequences, to themselves and the company as a whole, if the policy is violated in any way, for any reason.  There are many ways that managers can encourage ethical decision-making within an organization. I believe the more creative, the more effective.

Some basic rules of thumb in implementing an ethics policy are to require employees to read the policy and sign a form that indicates that have read and understood the policy. Another simple way of keeping this policy common knowledge is to post a copy of it in the break room along with required government postings, such as Federal Minimum Wage and Family Medical Leave Act. Management involvement and participation is also a vital part in upholding this policy. Some ways of doing this is for managers to bring it up in conversation whenever it is appropriate. This discussion does not have to be limited to the organization’s ethics and expectations, but can include personal, day-to-day views of the manager and the employees. This can not only let the employees know that the manager is aware of ethical issues, but supports ethics policies. It also lets them know that the manager is knowledgeable and aware of his/her environment and what goes on around them.

Another way of getting employees to think and act ethically is to include a question that asks for an ethical solution in the organization’s news letter or attached to the employee’s paycheck. Have a drop box for answers to be submitted, a designated time and place for a drawing, and the first answer pulled from the box that is correct be rewarded with some kind of incentive, such as a free lunch or longer meal period for a week. Including a game of “Jeopardy” using questions of ethics at an employee meeting is another way that management can show their involvement by encouraging ethical decision-making and also, opening up an opportunity to ask questions. Not only can employees feel free to ask what would I do if… but also can alert management to potential situations that may be or have gone on in the past. As this opens up deeper discussions, it can go a long way to building trust both in the employees of their leadership and of the management in their employees.

A very simple way of getting employees to make good ethical decisions is to just ask them. Ask them what they think to get them involved, to gauge how much they know, and how likely they are to respond ethically when the situation arises. Finally, and I think most importantly, acknowledgement and recognition to employees, when they are “caught” acting ethically or inquire about a situation that they believe is unethical, will increase the example set in the workplace, not only by management, but also by fellow employees. Good ethic decision-making abilities are essential to any organization. The more you know, the more you practice, and the more it becomes a normal part of your daily duties, the more prevention of violations become a reality. Building a strong foundation for ethical behavior will also decrease turn over and increase each individual’s moral development.

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