Ethical stewardship is a concept that encourages fair, just and equal treatment of employees and shareholders and a management style focused on policies that work for the good of the organization as a whole. The concept comes up often in management, business and other areas concerned with the experience of employees. Bosses and managers, as well as project managers and coworkers, are often particularly concerned with ethical stewardship since it encourages a positive and productive work environment.
Ethical stewardship consists of two ideas. Ethics refers to principles and morals that guide an individual or an organization. Stewardship refers to management, particularly of others' finances, goods or household. This may mean the steward is in charge of employees, the workplace or finances belonging to shareholders. Therefore, the idea of being an ethical steward means taking charge of an organization, household or finances by following a guiding set of principles and morals.
History of the Term
The original definition of a "steward" originally referred to a person who managed the running of a household or estate, supervised servants, collected rents and kept business accounts. The term was later applied to those in charge of the passengers on a ship or plane. The steward was not only in charge of others working on the ship or plane but was responsible for the well-being of those being transported. Clearly, its literal meaning became a metaphor for the task of leading, protecting and being responsible for a group of people in a work or business setting. The idea of ethical stewardship has evolved as businesses have evolved; as laws were created to enforce better working conditions for workers, principled and fair treatment of employees has also become essential.
Common Applications of Ethical Stewardship
Ethical stewardship has a number of practical applications in the workplace. First, employers concerned with ethical stewardship should pay fair wages to employees. They should also demand of their employees manageable work hours and tasks. In addition, employees should have the ability to approach employers with requests and issues and should have a sense that they are heard. As part of their responsibility to shareholders, ethical stewards in a corporation should be honest, fair and seek to make decisions that benefit all shareholders.
Challenges to Applying Ethical Stewardship
Ethical stewardship seems a simple concept but can become complicated when put into action. Employers often have enormous responsibility and stress and may worry that their employees are trying to take advantage of them. They may struggle with proper decision-making and with making sure each decision is aligned with their ethics. Often, there are not simple answers to problems in the workplace. The best approach to remain an ethical steward is to be open, honest and collaborative with employees and shareholders.
Abbey Baker is a writer and teacher at an alternative school in Burlington, Vt., where she specializes in working with students who have learning disabilities. Baker has a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing and writes short stories. She recently had a short story published in "Eleven Eleven" journal.