Morality and ethical concerns are sometimes tricky to bring up in the work place. There is a sexual harassment concern when a man has to tell a female employee about the inappropriateness of an outfit or how it doesn't adhere to the company's dress code. Worries about stealing come up when a restaurant has a relaxed policy about letting employees take extra food home at the end of the night. Yet, company ethics can be effectively approached in the work place if a little creativity is used.
Talk to individual employees about their concerns about work ethics. Keeping an instructional meeting a two-way street can benefit you and the employees. Not only are you gaining insight into what your employees want and need in the workplace, but you can also be heard more clearly than if you simply lecture.
Ask about individual perceptions of work ethics. Do this for all your employees in a meeting on ethical behavior. Honesty is an important ethic to display, but it's hard to talk about in a tangible way. For some employees, ethics in the workplace will mean consideration of personal space, asking before borrowing supplies and showing up when it's time to relieve someone else for a break. Ethics are detailed, so having this discussion is important.
Define what work ethics mean to you. Be matter-of-fact. Referring to a paragraph or entire section of a work handbook won't be memorable, because people will gloss over it in their minds. Having heard your employees' perceptions, stating yours helps make your point clearly. Be honest. Describe what's acceptable when it comes to morality at work.
Discuss how credit should be given and taken. If two partners are working on a project, explain the importance of giving credit where it's due--and not taking it when it's not. Every company differs on how projects are handled, but it's important that competition not mar morale and good work.
Explain that dating a superior or someone in subordination to you is forbidden in the workplace, if that's the rule in your workplace. Cover the rules of appropriate behavior to protect the employer from sexual harassment lawsuits, but also talk about creating a respectful environment at work.
Talk about how stealing affects all people in a company. If people are stealing from a company, it not only cuts away at your personal profits, it takes away from employee end-of-the-year bonuses perhaps, or maybe it could contribute to the closing of a company if it gets out of hand, placing everybody's jobs in jeopardy. The implications and consequences of unethical employee behavior should be addressed.
Discuss networking within the company. Some people use one another in a company to network at other companies, if someone has his foot in two jobs at once. How confidentiality and networking is to be handled is up to the individual company. Be clear with your employees on the level of confidentiality the company requires. On the lower levels of some companies, confidential information is kept far at bay, but you should be clear to employees dealing with sensitive information on how it should be ethically addressed.
Set work ethics rules. Be extremely clear on what moral lapses will result in termination of employment.
Robin Raven was first published in 1998. She has contributed to newspapers, magazines and online publications, including "The Malibu Times," "Act'ionLine" for Friends of Animals, USA Today Travel Tips and the official Melissa Gilbert website. Raven specializes in travel, health, beauty, culture, vegan nutrition, joyful living, arts and entertainment. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in writing.