Ethics in the workplace must be enforced. This is one of the building blocks of a functional company.
Strong ethics are one of the many signs of a desirable workplace, the kind of office where people want to work. A sense of integrity doesn’t occur within an office by accident – this positive atmosphere is created by the conduct and management style of leaders. If you directly oversee a workplace, or if you’re responsible for employees who do, it’s time to consider whether your style is helping good values and ethics take root.
Companies that have poor track records on integrity are always at risk. The legal and functional problems that arise from failures of ethics within organizations are pressing and numerous. This means enforcing good conduct and practices isn’t just the morally upright thing to do; it’s justified and even essential from a bottom-line perspective as well. It’s worth taking some extra time to ensure all bases are covered – and understand how a workplace can drift away from ethical activity in the first place.
Roadblocks to ethics
Within any company, there are events and conditions that have the potential to create unethical situations. Identifying these factors before they lead to active problems is a vital competency for any leader to have. The Harvard Business Review recently noted a few signs to watch out for, including out-of-control incentive schemes. The source noted that the major Wells Fargo scandal of recent months featured managers who felt pressured to reach for account opening targets and took underhanded means to make their numbers match goals. This is an extreme example, but illustrates the risk inherent to performance targets.
According to The Harvard Business Review, abrupt, top-down organizational change is another ethics sinkhole waiting to happen. When there is a serious change in the way companies work, managers at all levels may find themselves making difficult choices with little preparation. This could lead to issues with shortsighted choices or ones that contradict decision-makers’ values. This doesn’t necessarily have to come with major company changes, but tends to when not enough planning has happened.
Examining your style
The way you lead your department may be its own impediment to ethics within the company. Forbes contributor Ron Carucci noted a few precautions you have to take to ensure the environment you create is positive and helpful. For instance, when you set an “open door policy” for the discussion of difficult ideas, you need to follow through on that promise. Quoting advice from New York University professor Elizabeth Morrison, Carucci explained that your reactions are critical when workers come to you with issues. You must be empathetic, with no annoyance or negativity, if you want people to believe they can turn to you.
Of course, the human resources department plays a huge role in creating an ethical workplace. Best practices in HR can extend to the entirety of a company – and weaknesses can become chronic. Human Resources Executive Online contributor Carol Patton specified that too much focus on checking off boxes and following policies to the letter can lead to organizations missing important instances of unethical behavior. Sirota Director of Research and Development Patrick Hyland told Patton that HR departments today need good forums for feedback to ensure there are chances to address problems that don’t fall under existing policies.
Becoming more adept at enforcing ethics in the workplace can make a huge positive difference within a company, potentially bringing unexamined issues into the light and helping the organization correct its course. This is a distinct area of competency, but fortunately there are training modules specifically designed to help you excel. MasteryTCN’s catalog of relevant courses can change the way you view integrity and ethics in the workplace, helping you develop a productive and positive company culture.