Building an Ethical Work Environment Begins with Management

Posted: September 24, 2014 at 8:14 am

The Ethics Resource Center recently did a report on business ethics finding that “ethics cultures are eroding and employees’ perceptions of their leaders’ ethics are slipping away.” As the times progress, more and more employees are distracted, disengaged, a little lazy, and resorting to unethical business practices to get the job done.

This unethical behavior trend seems closely related to today’s tough business climate. With the economy, the business world is more cutthroat than it once used to be. Add that to unprepared and unmotivated hires and the environment at work becomes hostile. Instead of working hard as a team to better the company, employees are willing to engage in unethical practices, such as lying to customers to gain more clientele, bad-mouthing competitors, or undermining co-workers in order to secure their place in the company.

These types of behavior create a tense work environment and can potentially lead to legal issues. Creating a healthy, ethical work environment begins at the top. It is crucial for business leaders to emulate the company’s business ethics in their words and actions.

1. Team Mentality

Regardless of whether an employee’s job requires them to work directly with others, there should be a team mentality among all employees. First and foremost, it is vital anyone in a position of leadership follows these same principles in order to create an environment conducive to productivity by working together.

While healthy competition between co-workers for a job promotion can stimulate productivity, ensure employees that any unethical behavior toward each other will lead to harsh consequences.

Create a healthy environment with fairness and giving each employee an equal opportunity to achieve a promotion. This is especially with jobs that deal with contract positions or shifts. Because of the nature of these positions, it can be simple to unintentionally offer one or a couple employees more hours or contracts than another. This can create tension between co-workers.

Look to implement employee scheduling software. Utilizing a schedule like the software provides keeps a clear and concise record of each employee’s hours and time spent working. Not only can scheduling be done on a mobile device if away from work, it also alleviates any concern of employees manipulating a written schedule in their favor. Creating a weekly or monthly employee schedule is time-consuming and a difficult process. Working with an online system also simplifies the entire process.

2. Clear Expectations

It is difficult to fault an employee for poor business ethics when the expectations you have for them have not been clearly defined. In each employee contract, list out the company’s expectations for each employee. Detail what is expected of them in their work performance and in their interactions with co-workers. Follow these expectations with the company’s business ethics. Each employee is aware of what is required of him or her and the consequences if they ignore or undermine these principles.

3. Enforce Policies

If an ethical breach happens, do not overlook it without dealing with it. This creates a mentality of tolerance in the mind of employees, which can lead to further rule breaking. Not only does it hurt the work environment, it could have significant consequences on the business itself if clients and customers are hurt or swindled in the process. Regardless of whether it’s the top employee cheating or lying to customers or the lowest performer, deal with the problem head on.

4. Practice What You Preach

In order to uphold company standards and create an environment founded on moral work ethic, be sure you or anyone in a position of authority acts in the same manner. A healthy, productive environment is made when every employee, regardless of status or ranking, is held to the same standard and code of ethics.