The business world is going through rapid and profound changes due to globalization, the advancement of technology, social innovation and concerns about sustainability. Against this backdrop, customers are increasingly demanding that businesses act responsibly and improve their relationships with the world around them. Ethics education is central to this process, as it strives to instill the highest standards of honesty and integrity across the workforce.
What Are Workplace Ethics?
Essentially, workplace ethics are the acceptable standards of behavior on the job – a set of rules that are important to the organization and its customers. They exist to guide employees toward the right way to act in a situation in order to protect the integrity of the business. Examples include:
What Are Workplace Values?
A person's values are the things for which he stands – the beliefs and principles that guide his behavior as he goes about his daily life. Organizations can also have values. These set the tone of the company and help to focus the company's efforts on the things that are most important. Examples include being accountable, delivering quality, keeping promises, meeting deadlines, helping others, showing tolerance and making a difference.
Is there a difference between ethics and values? Yes and no. In the simplest form, ethics describe the company's standards of conduct, which are based around issues of morality. Values are more fundamental, as they describe the core principles and ideals that underpin the company's code of ethics.
In reality, though, an ethical violation almost certainly will conflict with the company's value system and vice versa. For example, if someone is spreading malicious rumors about co-workers, this will violate the ethical standard of respect and the values of helping others and showing tolerance.
How to Teach Professional Ethics and Values
There are many types of value education and many ways to deliver ethics training. The important thing is that you do it. Most companies have an employee handbook or code of conduct that employees should follow, which contains the standards for ethical behavior in the workplace.
Beyond that, other ways to teach workplace ethics include presentations, case studies, role playing ethical dilemmas – whether real or fabricated – and round-table discussions of some real-life situations where people have struggled to know how to behave. It's useful to recognize that there is no one "right" way to behave ethically and that situations can be managed with a variety of fair solutions.
Benefits of Ethics and Value Education for Employees
- Make the job easier. When work is performed ethically in accordance with the company's code of conduct, then it's much easier for employees to know what to do and how to behave in a given situation.
- Make the job more honorable. When employees know that the organization supports them in upholding high standards and reporting incidences of poor behavior, employees feel more comfortable and are proud to work for the organization.
- Enhance the working environment. When the standards are known and upheld, it creates a friendly and respectful environment with less room for misunderstandings among employees. Ethical training boosts teamwork and ensures that everyone is pulling in the same direction. :
Benefits of Ethics and Value Education for the Business
- Increase productivity and profitability. When employees follow ethical codes of conduct, they do not act inappropriately, cut corners or short-change customers. Effort is put into productive activities instead of being diverted to questionable practices.
- Increase the public image. Today's customers are careful about with whom they do business. A commitment to ethics training is a commitment to act responsibly and do the right thing. Customers like to do business with companies they can trust.
- Reduce the number of legal issues. When everyone is working systematically in accordance with a clear code of conduct, then the business is far less likely to face any problems of legal liability.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a business writer. Her articles have appeared on numerous business sites including Typefinder, Women in Business, Startwire and Indeed.com.