If ethics are an individual’s belief about what is right or wrong or good or bad, then how can managers encourage organisational members to act ethically?
In today’s modern world, there are many organisations with different levels of management. Whichever level of management it is, the managers will have to make decisions be it small or big. From time to time, these decisions are influenced by ethics. Ethics are rules and principles that define right and wrong conduct (Robbins, Bergman, Stagg and Coulter, 2003).
In the world today, ethics are considered to play an important role. Imagine a world without ethics, where no one was interested in the environment or making things better for all. As people go on through life, many of us are likely to have formed our ideas of decency and fairness based on our experiences of life. Ever so often, our views have been influenced by people we have met. In the workplace, there is a collection of these many different experiences and therefore of differing ethics.
Many people join a company without investigating the ethics of their employing organisation and often find themselves at variance and out of balance. Because of this it is important for a company to form a structure for ethics with a policy, a code of practice, or a cultural understanding of the rules. It appears to present authors that having senior managers who value ethical behaviour as much as profit will achieve the greatest impact on a company’s ethical standards. Businesses need to develop the kind of environment that promotes ethical development and they can only do that from the top down (Orme and Ashton, 2003).
As businesses need to develop an ethical environment for their organisation, members of top management can do a number of things to encourage organisational members to act ethically. In order to successfully carry out this idea of having organisational members acting ethically is to implement a comprehensive ethics program. This program will consist of several different actions which include hiring individuals with high ethical standards, establish codes of ethics and decision rules, lead by example, delineate job goals and provide ethical training (Robbins et al., 2003).
Employee selection is the process of interviewing, testing and doing background checks on the individual to determine that individual’s ethical standing. This process is used to eliminate ethically undesired applicants (Robbins et al., 2003).
The next step is to establish codes of ethics. A code of ethics is a formal statement of an organisation’s primary values and the ethical rules it expects its employees to follow (Robbins et al., 2003). A code of ethics can be a practical guide for employees – one that identifies key ethical standards and helps to clarify what organizations mean by ethical behavior. Effective codes can help to raise ethical awareness, facilitate dialogue, and encourage employees to take greater ownership of ethics programs within their organizations. To fulfill their promise, codes must be clear, readable and accessible to employees. Codes that are not may cause additional frustration for employees, and, in extreme cases, may actually increase their fear of punishment for acting on their own initiative (Joseph, 2001).
For organizations with values-oriented programs, the above example is an important reminder that stated ethics priorities and justifications are sometimes poorly aligned with actual practices. This can present problems from the standpoints of program integration and effectiveness. Organizations that do not pay sufficient attention to upholding stated program priorities and justifications risk disappointing their employees, feeding employee cynicism and undermining their hard work in other areas (Joseph, 2001).
A code of ethics should provide guidance but does not intimidate employees.
Being a moral person does not necessarily equate to one becoming a moral manager and it is not enough to assume that one’s employees will observe these qualities based on the limited interaction that occurs between manager and employee. A moral person must possess distinct traits and exhibit certain behaviours, but a moral manager must become a visible role model and communicate his ideals about ethics and values openly to all those around him. There is a delicate balance between a moral person and a moral manager and through the use of charts and diagrams the Fellows attempt to make this relationship more tangible while also explaining the advantages and rewards of such an accomplishment (Treviï¿½o, Hartman and Brown).
Conversely, the failure to incorporate such a relationship into one’s leadership style may have detrimental effects on both the leader and the company as a whole. The Fellows conducted forty interviews with senior executives and corporate ethics officers and compiled their data to analyze the difference between the role that corporate leaders see themselves occupying and the actual effectiveness of their job performance. For a strong moral manager to emerge, a corporate leader must cease to exist solely as an executive and accept the responsibility as the Chief Ethics Officer. A true C.E.O. or moral manager is a person that maintains strong morals and values within themselves and possesses the ability to instil these ideals in others.
To run an organization ethically requires the commitments from top managers as they are the ones who set the cultural tone. In order to lead by example, the CEO or chairman of the board has to champion the creation of an ethics program. Managers should identify senior executives from their legal, finance, officers noted several key roles of champions in helping to develop their programs. These included promoting and/or mandating the ethics program, dedicating staff and resources for ethics initiatives and ensuring the autonomy and credibility of the ethics office (Joseph, 2001).
The active participation of their leaders is a key advantage in the continuing development of their ethics programs. The term “active participation” was used to identify visible behaviors that went beyond the creation of an ethics program. These included talking with employees and other stakeholders (formally and informally) about the importance of ethics in the organization’s success, showing a public willingness to address difficult and/or ambiguous ethical issues, modeling ethical behaviors, promising a long-term commitment to ethical learning within the organization and serving on ethics oversight committees (Joseph, 2001).
A leader’s involvement reminds employees and stakeholders of a program’s importance and helps to create a sense of program ownership among the leaders themselves. Those whose leaders were not active participants in ethics programs cited the leader’s other commitments or lack of desire to play a more active role (Joseph, 2001).
The idea that the ethical tone is set at the top of an organization is pervasive in the business ethics literature and in anecdotal accounts. It seems intuitive that a leader’s ongoing, visible support can bolster an ethics program’s credibility and importance in the eyes of employees and other stakeholders. However, such visible support may be particularly important for programs that focus on ethical values in addition to compliance. As noted previously, programs that focus on ethical values are typically justified to employees differently than are strict compliance programs. As a result, they tend to raise employee expectations for program success. A leader’s active participation in ethics programs can help to further that success. It can send a dual message that underscores a program’s importance to the organization as well as the leader’s personal interest in seeing it succeed (Joseph, 2001).
Another step in encouraging ethical behaviors in the organization is to have job goals and performance appraisals. Giving employees realistic and tangible goals, employees can reduce ambiguity and it would be easier to motivate them rather than punish. If the opposite were to be done, which is to create explicit goals with unrealistic demands, employees will often do whatever it takes to achieve the goal which will encourage unethical behaviors. When giving an individual performance appraisal for their achievements, ethical standards should be included (Robbins et al., 2003).
To fully complete the ethical program of the organization, an ethics training program must be developed. Managers must selected training programs delivery methods based on perceived organizational needs, resources and culture. Managers can use more than a single method to deliver their training. Delivery methods included training by managers in partnership with human resources or other departments, managers in partnership with external trainers, employee trainers who participated in train-the-trainer sessions with managers, supplying with ethics training materials developed and employees using self-paced videos, modules and other tools. Company intranet can be used to deliver the training (Joseph, 2001).
Training led by managers can increase manager involvement and encourage ethics dialogue between staff and managers. This training approach requires managers to take time to understand ethics materials well enough to discuss them with employees. In addition, such training ensures face-to-face ethics discussion between managers and employees – an important first step in establishing ongoing ethics dialogue (Joseph, 2001).
Training led by managers may be inconsistent. Unprepared or disinterested managers could lead to wide variations in the quality and effectiveness of ethics training received by employees (Joseph, 2001). Therefore, managers will also have to be trained properly before leading the ethics training program.
As discussed above, ethics education and training initiatives can be a critical means to communicate with employees. Through these initiatives organizations can: raise ethical awareness, emphasize the relevance of ethical issues to employees, answer employee questions and address their concerns, stimulate ethics dialogue among employees and managers and encourage ownership of ethics programs at all levels.
There are many approaches available to deliver ethics education and training to employees. The right approach for any particular organization depends, in part, on its program priorities and justifications. Awareness of the different options available can help managers to better evaluate and choose an appropriate training option. For example, organizations interested in the consistency and ease of training and less concerned with interactive dialogue, may opt for self-paced training materials.
Managers should also recognize that they are not limited to a single training approach. For example, an organization might decide to use stand-up trainers to deliver general ethics training but use self-paced modules to deliver job-specific training (Joseph, 2001).
To successfully implement an effective ethical program, independent social audits has to be done on a regular basis and also randomly with no prior announcement. To maintain integrity, the auditors should be responsible to the company’s board of directors and present their findings directly to the board as this will reduces the opportunity for retaliation from those being audited and gives the auditors clout (Robbins et al., 2003).
The reasons for embarking on an ethical audit is because ethics is part of business strategy and management as stated by Ken Andrews (1987) of Harvard, the founder of the subject of corporate strategy, placed business ethics at the forefront (Vinten, 1998). With social audits, employees will try to remain ethical as their job is on the line where unacceptable unethical behavior will cause them to lose the job.
In conclusion, effective ethics and compliance programs are more than the sum of their parts. To deliver on program promises and meet the expectations of leaders and employees, organizations need to integrate these parts into everyday business activities. This means that programs must be consistent internally and within a broader organizational context. The good new is that ethics programs have been successful enough to earn this opportunity. The challenge is to figure out how to proceed.
As a result, managers will need to recognize the implications of changing ethics priorities and definitions of success. They should expect to challenge their assumptions, balance competing priorities and even revise timetested program structures and practices. They won’t be able to do it alone. For continued success managers will surely need the support and guidance of leaders and employees in other functional areas.
* Farrell B., Cobbin D., and Farrell H., 2002, ‘Codes of Ethics’, The Journal of Management Development Vol 21 No. 2
* Joseph J., 2001, ‘Integrating Ethics and Compliance Programs: Next Steps for Successful Implementation and Change’, Ethics resource centre, pp. 36- 48
* Orme G., and Ashton C., 2003, ‘Ethics – A Foundation Competency’, Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol 35 No. 5
* Robbins S., Bergman R., Stagg I., and Coulter M., 2003, ‘Management’, 3rd ed. Prentice Hall
* Treviï¿½o K., Hartman L., and Brown M., ‘Moral Person and Moral Manager: How Executives Develop a Reputation for Ethical Leadership’, The Pennsylvania State University
* Vinten, G., 1998, ‘Putting Ethics into Quality’, The TQM Magazine Vol. 10 No. 2