An internet search about “ethics in the workplace” will uncover a lot of discussions, most of which centers around practices of the unethical kind. Names such as Enron, WorldCom, and Lehman Brothers are still circulating years after their scandals made the headlines.
To note that poor ethical practices are unhealthy for the bottom line is like saying winter is cold in Minnesota. More than half of the ten largest corporate bankruptcies since 1980 resulted from unethical business practices.
Each year, almost half of U.S. employees report witnessing unethical or illegal conduct in their workplaces. Many of these incidents are not reported and therefore remain unaddressed. A fact that should concern each and every one of us.
What does it mean to have an ethical workplace? What does such a place look or feel like?
Perhaps the best way to discover the answers to these questions is to point out traits that are not part of an ethical workplace.
- A place where misconduct is tolerated.
- Where different standards apply to particular departments or individuals.
- Where “cutting corners” is encouraged.
- An atmosphere that pushes profits above everything else.
- Where leadership is not held accountable and/or not expected to set an example.
- Where no system of “checks and balances” exists.
Michael C. Hyter, senior partner, leadership and talent consulting, at Korn Ferry in Washington, D.C. sums up his idea of an ethical workplace quite nicely,
“What it means to me is an environment that makes it easy to do the right thing and makes it difficult to do the wrong thing.”
It usually starts with minor stuff. A “white lie” here, a misrepresentation there. A growing “sweep it under the carpet” attitude that becomes toxic. The thing about ethical missteps is they tend to snowball. One misstep become two missteps – then three . . . leading to a “break” that doesn’t stop before becoming a full hiatus from doing the right thing.
Establishing an ethical workplace culture will not happen without solid, ethically grounded leadership leading the charge. Employees will naturally take their cues from management. An attitude of utmost commitment to a high standard must start at the top if it’s to reach the bottom rung.
So, what are the hallmarks of an ethical workplace?
- Respect is a priority
Between co-workers, amongst management, between management and staff. Across the board, mutual respect is given and expected.
The same parameters are extended to vendors, peers, customers, the UPS man, the city workers who plow the streets – everyone. Anyone who comes in contact with the company is treated with respect and is expected to behave in the same manner.
- Integrity is required
Consistent demonstrations of this character quality are mandatory. Being a man or woman of your word is evidenced in every department, across all phases of the business, to the point of being woven into the very tapestry of the company. Senior leadership not only models the highest degree of integrity but makes no apologies for demanding the same from everyone in the company.
- Reporting procedures are in place
Every employee knows, from day one, what to do and to whom to report should he/she witness unethical or illegal conduct. Fears of retaliation are dispelled because the company culture is such that 1. Retaliation is not tolerated. 2. Reporting is expected. 3. Management is consistently watchful toward such behavior.
While it’s okay to hope the company never has to use such procedures, savvy businesses know they cannot afford to ignore the potential for unethical conduct occurring.
- Swift, consistent consequences apply across the board
Nothing is hushed, poo-pooed, ignored or in any other way disregarded when it comes to addressing and resolving issues of an ethical nature. Whether it be the CEO or a janitorial team member, consequences will be administered in a timely fashion for all infractions. Investigations into the wrong-doing do not cease until all involved parties are uncovered. In other words, “who you are” has no bearing on the degree of ethical behavior expected from any individual.
A company culture that upholds and expects a high level of ethical standards will have happier, more productive employees, less employee turnover and will benefit from a positive reputation among consumers.
B Loehr Staffing holds all of our employees to the highest level of ethical standards. Their outstanding performance has helped to build our reputation as a premier provider of quality staffing.Through our distinctive Team Based Client Support System, we can respond quickly to assist with all of your staffing needs, supplying your business with ethical workers. Contact our staffing specialists today.