A strong sense of ethics in the workplace can improve a company in a variety of ways, both internally and externally. If employees in a company make an agreement to treat each other more ethically, such as by refraining from certain kinds of office politics, the workplace will not only be a more amicable place, but also will, in most cases, be more productive. In turn, more ethical employees can often lead to a better public reputation for a company, a reputation that can lead to increased customer loyalty and often larger revenues. Creating ethical sensibilities in employees can be tricky, but it is made easier if a manager follows a plan.
Outline the rules of ethical conduct. There's an old philosophical saying that you can't change what you can't see. For an employee to know he's behaving unethically, he has to first be apprised of what constitutes ethical conduct. To this end, employers should develop both a code of ethics, one that can be applied to many workplace situations, and a list of examples of ethical conduct with particular application to the workplace.
Install a reward system. Ideally, ethical conduct should be its own reward: Employees should want to act ethically because it's the right thing to do and instills in them a sense of self-worth. But it doesn't always work like this, and employees might need material motivation, if just to remind them to do the right thing. What employees will be rewarded for and how they will be rewarded will vary by workplace. For example, in a telemarketing office, an employee could be rewarded for receiving high customer ratings from clients, which may indicate a lack of deception on the part of the employee when speaking to clients.
Institute training. Many office managers mandate training seminars in which employees attempt to develop ethical behavior by listening to speakers and participating in activities designed to make them more aware of ethical aspects of their job. For example, a group of employees might be given hypothetical situations and asked to consider the most ethical way to proceed. This will serve to nurture a discussion about ethics.
Bring in an outside ethical advisory group. Sometimes it's difficult for someone embedded in a workplace to view the situation with the objectivity necessary to determine what conduct is ethical and what is not. For this reason, you may want to consider bringing in outside help. Many consultancies offer ethics-based training. Consider bringing one to make suggestions about increasing ethics in your workplace.
- "Ethics in the Workplace"; Craig Edward Johnson; 2007
- Workplace Ethics: What's Workplace Ethics?
Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.