When you get up to go to work today in your small business, your focus might not be on modeling ethical behavior for your employees. However, a business owner's behavior is crucial in setting the tone for company operations. You and your managers are the people who employees emulate, and the example you set affects how everyone behaves in your business environment.

Be Impartial

In business meetings, there is a potential for conflicts to arise between employees. As the leader, you're expected to resolve conflicts while remaining impartial. However, because you're the ultimate decision-maker in the company, your impartiality may be questioned by those unhappy at the results.

Because conflicts have at least two sides, you should give all employees a chance to state their position. Resist the predisposition to side with your favorite workers or senior employees. Listen to everyone and try to find a resolution that everyone can live with. Being impartial whenever possible helps you build a reputation as a fair boss.

Recognize Others

When you are communicating with employees to share recent accomplishments, it's important to give credit where credit is due. Some leaders make the mistake of taking credit for the company's achievements, or only recognizing the top person involved in a project. Create a more equitable work environment by acknowledging everyone who contributes. People like to be recognized for a job well done, and leaving their names out of a communication neglects their contribution to the company.

Improve Employment Practices

Most organizations can improve their employment practices and recruit a more diverse workforce. One option is to involve employees in your hiring process. With greater input, you can reduce bias in hiring. For example, you can require that every position be filled by a hiring committee and require every employee to participate in a hiring committee before anyone employee can sit on a second committee, or within a certain period of time. You can create guidelines and training for all employees, helping them to follow a standardized process and increase transparency. This also increases employee engagement and makes them feel like an integral part of your operations.

Be Flexible

One way to be seen as ethical is to offer your employees who need a degree of flexibility in employment conditions the environment that they need to succeed. It's important to create formal policies for flexible work situations to make sure people have the opportunity to take advantage of these options and to ensure they are not reserved for those seen as your favorites.

To stay on the right side of the ethical line, you can lay out flexible schedules, offering the same options to people with similar job descriptions. Create job rotation, flexible work assignments and work-at-home guidelines. Try to make sure that groups are not discriminated against. For example, allowing parents to leave early to attend their children's activities might be seen as unethical by childless employees if they lose their own flexibility and have to stay late as a result. You'll want to make sure that everyone feels that when they have the need to work a flexible schedule, their request will be considered. That will increase their social investment in the company.