Article (July-2016)


Promoting ethical behaviours

Nadeem Kazim

Designation : -   Senior HR Professional

Organization : -  Kolkata


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Being ethical involves conducting yourself in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong. Ethics is a matter of using integrity-based decision-making procedures to guide your decisions and actions. In the workplace, being ethical may involve acting morally right, being honest, not cheating your employer, co-workers, or customers, and treating your co-workers well. Organizations that support ethical initiatives consistently show more productivity and employee retention than organizations that consider corporate ethics merely a matter of compliance. A company that conducts business in an ethical manner gains respect not only from the employees but also from the society. Employee retention is high in companies that promote strong ethical behaviours. Consumers demonstrate brand loyalty to companies that exhibit a strong sense of corporate responsibility and stewardship. In a marketplace of unfair competition, underhanded practices, and consumer distrust, the company that emerges with its integrity intact becomes a preferred consumer choice. When employers respect and treat employees in a fair and consistent manner, employees begin to trust the management and the company's values and ethics get embedded in the workplace.

Make it a core value
In an organization, workplace ethics should be a core value. Apart from doing the right thing, conducting ourselves ethically has great rewards and returns. It is essential to have strong working relationships with people. Leaders must always be cognizant of the fact that they are in a "fishbowl" and how they behave is clearly visible to others. Whatever they do will not only be seen by others, but may be duplicated as well. It is very important to integrate ethical workplace behaviour into performance criteria. Creating a culture of integrity requires a well-articulated code of ethics that explicitly tells employees how they are expected to act, the manner in which goals and objectives are to be achieved, and the type of behaviour that is expected from them. The management must establish the code of conduct for the employees and all must strictly adhere to the code of conduct to develop an ethical work culture. 

Each person has his/her own unique moral imperatives and personal ethics which compel him/her to act in a particular unique way. However ethical dilemma arises when there is a conflict between these individual opinions. A workplace is considered a breeding ground for ethical dilemmas between individuals as they all come from different socio-economic backgrounds and beliefs. Right versus right is the toughest ethical challenge to navigate and thereby take ethical decision.

Finding the path
Maintaining and sustaining an ethical corporate culture is a challenge. However the onus of assessing and cultivating ethical culture lies on the leaders of the organisation. An ethical corporate culture starts at the top and works its way down through the organization. Leaders should be carefully selected, and new hires should demonstrate an ability to fit in with the desired corporate culture. An important step in establishing an ethical culture is to assure that all individuals, especially newcomers, know about and understand the laws, rules, and values which should guide their behaviour. A well-planned orientation program is very important. The goal is to create an esprit de corps that sets moral values and commitment to high ethical standards.

The leader's responsibility
Leaders must clearly and effectively communicate their expectations to the employees and ensure that they understand their responsibility in regards to meeting those expectations.  The management should also aim to build a culture where people feel comfortable in bringing forward issues regarding the ethical behaviour of other employees or even the business in general. As a manager, this can be valuable information that can be used to guide the employees and business in the right direction.

We should aim to change our employee's attitude from simply looking at making short-term profits to working towards sustainable objectives. We need to make them aware of business sustainability and how their decisions and attitude in terms of ethical compliance can have an impact on the overall success of the business in the long term. There are a number of issues that can cause a breakdown in business ethics, and to operate sustainably, we need to ensure that these issues are not a problem in the business. 

Unfortunately, in many businesses, employees are under pressure to achieve unrealistic objectives. Employees begin to feel that the only way they can get ahead is by compromising on their ethical standards. Even more concerning is the fact that some employees are rewarded for objectives even if they disregard basic ethics. We need to prevent this from becoming a practice by carefully monitoring how our employees meet their targets, with particular emphasis on their compliance with the ethical code of conduct. A manager who acts ethically and responsibly will positively influence the behaviour of the people around him and go a long way towards ensuring the sustainability of their business.

In the corporate scenario, we have observed that bright leaders with immense capability and result orientation have not been considered for leadership position in view of their ethical behaviour. In an organization it is not only important to be honest but to be perceived as honest, ethical and upright which takes a leader to the epitome of success.