Organizations, globally, are warmly embracing the idea of establishing and streamlining their ethical framework to strengthen their business presence. Creating an ethical and transparent business culture can improve business profitability by developing a strong positive image for the brand and attracting and retaining the best talent.
Research by US-based think tank Ethisphere reveals that a business with strong ethical culture & compliance framework performs better overall. In wake of the recent incidences where the integrity of few employees can have a radical effect on the whole establishment, it becomes all the more important to inculcate ethics at the workplace and work towards raising the bar in corporate ethics and compliance.
The first step towards this end is a clear understanding of what ethical behavior at workplace comprises of.
Ethical behavior at the workplace
Ethics are defined as moral principles that govern the behavior of individuals, guiding their conduct in every aspect of their lives, including at workplace. While every individual possesses an inherent understanding of what constitutes the right conduct at the workplace, varying cultural and personal backgrounds influence their implementation. To ensure consistency in understanding and practice across all levels, organizations often establish frameworks and policies to shape work practices, interactions, and behavior within an organization.
While the elements of good work ethics vary from organization to organization, imbibing the following common principles in the corporate ethics and compliance policy can build a strong foundation of trust upon which an ethical workplace can be built:
- Integrity: The utmost crucial component of workplace ethics is integrity. Being honest and doing the right thing under all circumstances forges trust and wins over the confidence of all stakeholders.
Example: A team member, who missed the deadline for a project, takes the onus of non-delivery instead of putting the blame on her/his colleagues.
- Transparency: Transparency ensures that employees have easy access to information crucial to their job profiles. Open discussions on major developments are important to win employee trust.
Example: A meeting by the team leader to update the team members about a new bonus policy explaining them the logic and addressing their queries instead of introducing it on an ad-hoc basis.
- Respect: Respectful behavior lift the spirits of employees by making them feel valued and appreciated. It creates a sense of fairness and equity and reduces workplace stress.
Example: A team leader attentively listening to the point of view of a team member before expressing her/his opinion.
- Professionalism: Professional conduct of employees makes a significant impact on corporate reputation. External stakeholders like dealing with organizations that adopt a professional approach.
Example: A customer care executive politely attending to an annoyed client or a front office executive listening to complain of a customer in detail. In the current digital environment, the Online Reputation Management on social media is also critical.
- Teamwork: Working together as a team towards common business goals is imperative for organizational success. Employees must take actions that are beneficial for their team as a whole.
Example: Setting aside personal differences with a colleague to complete the project assigned within the deadline.
Creating an ethical workplace
Adherence to workplace ethics forges stronger work relationships while enhancing employee productivity. An ethical work environment boosts employee morale and ensures long-term sustenance for the business. To build a strong ethical work culture, management can take the following steps:
- Define a code: Every organization must set a code of ethics which clearly defines the values that the business would not compromise on. Be it honesty, transparency or diligence, outlining what is acceptable and what is not within the organization, serves as a guide for employees to check their behavior and ensure that it aligns with the values that the organization stands for.
- Seek employee buy-in: Involve employees in the process of drafting workplace ethics policy. Employee involvement will help the management to understand their perspective and take measures to get everyone on the same page. Ethics consultation group can be formed to take up concerns regarding ethical behavior at workplace and training programs can be conducted to impart the necessary skills.
- Lead by example: Leaders must be aware that their behavior serves as an example for the team members to follow. Any slack in their behavior is likely to act as a precedent for employees to take it easy. Ethical behavior of senior management sets standards of how employees are expected to behave in a particular situation.
- Review and course correction: A feedback mechanism should be instituted for reviewing the ethical standards on a regular basis. Staff members who observe an anomaly in the behavior of their colleagues should be encouraged to report it. Although whistleblower policy has been introduced by many organizations, seldom it’s followed. Any suggestions to improve the existing policy should also be rewarded to ensure that the workplace ethics stay relevant for all the employees and the organization.
Ethics at workplace creates a strong public image for the organization. Internal and external stakeholders respect such organizations for valuing people and for operating with integrity and honor. By playing a crucial role in strengthening collaboration, employee retention and business reputation, ethics at workplace pave the path for sustained performance and profitability.