The ethical climate of a business organization can make the difference between a successful venture and an unsuccessful one. In a 2007 article published in Financial Executive, contributing writer Cynthia Waller Vallario suggests that there may be a connection between how a business is perceived and its internal ethical climate. Improving the ethical climate of your own business "enhances and preserves its reputation, inspires loyalty and advertises that it has its ethics message right. It also fosters an ethical culture within the organization."
Evaluating Ethical Behavior
In an article published in 2004, Curtis C. Verschoor suggests that companies should undergo internal ethics audits on a regular basis. He contends that "the regular internal audit of the organization's ethics and compliance program adds great value to the organization." Verschoor argues that business organizations must take a "top-down" approach to ethics. By communicating and modeling behavioral standards from the highest levels of your business down to the entry-level positions, you can ensure that there is no "gap" between ethical standards and the actual behavior of employees. By regularly evaluating these standards and the behavior of your company's leadership, you can effectively promote compliance to ethical behavioral norms for your organization.
Increased focus in the business community regarding ethics-based issues has led to increased funding and research to increase ethical awareness. One strategy to improve the ethical climate of your business organization is to offer or even require classes in business ethics. Business ethics classes at the local community college or even classes offered directly through the human resources department can be a practical and cost-effective way to offer ongoing ethics training and motivation.
One problem that might arise in the promotion of ethical guidelines to your workforce is the fear employees may have regarding their role in reporting unethical or questionable behavior by another employee or even a supervisor. Employees must be assured that they will be safe from retaliation from other employees or supervisors who might be turned in for engaging in questionable activities. The best way to make this assurance is to offer employees a confidential channel through which they can report bad behavior. A company ethics hot line is one way to increase employee willingness to speak out. Another might be a suggestion box kept in a secure location where other employees are not likely to see one of their fellow employees turning them in. Employees must be confidently assured that reporting bad behavior is expected and safe.
- All Business.com: The effect of perceived ethical climate on the search for sales force excellence
- Financial Executive; Is Your Ethics Program Working?; C. W. Vallario; May, 2007.
- Internal Auditor; The Ethical Climate Barometer: Stormy Weather Could Be Ahead if Your Organization's Culture is Based on the Wrong Values; Curtis C. Verschoor; October, 2004.
Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.