Our modern understanding of ethics has its roots in Greek antiquity and in Socrates in particular. Prior to Socrates, Greek philosophy was concerned with questions about nature. Socrates turned his critical gaze on human beings themselves. Ethics, in Socrates' opinion, concern our public life and not just our private affairs. Hippocrates' Hippocratic Oath may be thought of as the first example of a professional or business code of ethics. A code of ethics lays out ethical guidelines and principles for the members of a particular profession or business.
Determine the specific ethical issues and situations related to your business. For example, is there a need for secrecy and discretion? And what are the potential sources of conflict?
Make a list of goals you want to achieve by establishing a code of ethics for business. Goals may include such things as establishing better employee-employee relations and employer-employee relations, improving communication, loyalty and trust in the work environment, acting more responsibly as a professional, preventing illegal business practices and increasing financial productivity.
Develop a clear code of ethics with concrete principles and guidelines for your business.
Create a Code of Ethics handbook and give it to all the employees.
Organize and set a date for an ethics training workshop for all company employees. The type of workshop depends on the nature and size of the business. A two- to three-day weekend at a local business retreat center is ideal for some types of businesses, while other types of businesses are better suited to scheduling ethics training workshops around the business day at the place of business itself.
Create a program and schedule for the ethics training workshop. Combine role-playing activities that deal with concrete ethical situations and dilemmas with a series of lectures or discussions. The discussions and lectures should clarify ethical conduct in general and your particular code of ethics in particular for the employees. Consider bringing in a business ethics specialist as a keynote speaker. Divide the employees into groups to act out particular ethical situations.
Conclude the ethics training with a question-and-answer period. Be willing to listen to feedback, criticisms and suggestions from your employees. Ethical training is most effective as a dialogue rather than a monologue. Socrates is the father of the Western ethical tradition. Socrates engaged his interlocutors in a debate to always move the discussion forward. Learning occurs by carefully listening to opposing points of view.
Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.