« What is the intersection between civility and ethics? | Main | Difficult people, take 3 »

Ethics in the workplace

Giovinella Gonthier in “Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace” suggests discussing ethics in work-related dilemmas. These are some of her examples to start the discussions:
• Expense reports and time reporting not fill out correctly/honestly
• Employees who pass on inside information, or who inadvertently pass on marketing and pricing schemes
• Nepotism issues
• Conflict-of-interest issues
• Stealing office supplies or even a computer for personal use

Ethical culture shows
Gonthier says “Many organizations fail to instill the notion of ethics into the corporate culture. I am often shocked at how little they (employees) understand about the concept.”

“Ethics is not one employee in one department publishing a code of ethics. It is a responsibility given to every employee in the company, but it must be led by top leadership. An ethical culture is one where actions from the top down are met from the bottom up in an all-encompassing process. Ethics then lives and breathes and moves with the organization itself,” says Ira Lipman, Chairman and President of Guardsmark, LLC, principal sponsor of the 2005 National Business Ethics Survey.

Iowa State students learn about workplace ethics
This is just one example, from Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management 287 this semester, based on the text “Essentials of Management” by Andrew J. DuBrin.
Contributing factors to ethical problems
• Individual greed and gluttony
• Desire to maximize self-gain at expense of others
• Organizational atmosphere that condones this behavior
• Pressure from management to achieve goals
• Moral laxity
• Decreasing quality for speed
• Covering up incidents that make an individual or organization look bad
• Deceiving customers
• Lying to a supervisor or group member
• Taking credit for a coworker’s idea
• Copying software

Trust is built on ethics
There’s trust with the public and probably more importantly, trust inside the organization. I am hearted by a just-released Associated Press-Ipsos poll that shows 55 percent of the surveyed consider honesty, integrity and other values of character the most important qualities they look for in a presidential candidate. Are organizations and companies paying attention?

True, ethics is what’s right and what’s wrong but in times of change, there are new complex situations and dilemmas to consider. It seems to me many ethical dilemmas come down to valuing money and appearances vs. valuing people. Self-serving vs. self-giving. Is that too simple?

We need to think about and have more discussions that include “Let’s think about the ethics of this action”. Remaining ethical is trying to be ethical…every day in all situations...and making ethics an important part of the culture.

“Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.”
Jane Addams, American pacifist, social worker and founder of Hull House in Chicago, one of the first social settlements in North America, Nobel Prize for Peace in 1931 (1860-1935)

Ethics in the Workplace reading
This guidebook is about 20 pages long—really good, particularly “10 Benefits of Managing Ethics in the Workplace”
Free Management Library, Complete Guide to Ethics Management

I’ve found no better or clearer company policy than the Google Code of Conduct which is truly ethics for today’s workplace.

Ethics Resource Center, Survey Documents State of Ethics in the Workplace

CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, The Right Way to Do the Right Thing (scroll down a ways to get to the full article)

Iowa State University Professional and Scientific Statement of Ethics


Great topic.

The important thing in this, to my mind, is not to get caught up in yesterday's behaviors, now that you "know" better - but to start fresh, striving toward an ethical path in every moment today.

Or, maybe I just feel guilty about misused post-its...