Everyday Ethics and Integrity

The topic of workplace ethics and integrity is one familiar to most business executives. Our culture continually forces companies to redefine how they view workplace behavior, decisions made, and the impact on customers, employees, and daily operations. The basic definition of Ethics revolves around what is considered “right” and “wrong” in the choices we make every day. There isn’t one set of rules or morals designated as the authority on conduct. Each business must adopt…and apply for itself…what guidelines are considered universal and what constitutes a violation of those guidelines.

Employees are watching.

Regardless of whether or not we talk about it, ethics aren’t going to go away. Most people want to work for a company that demonstrates integrity. And not just regarding large decisions, but smaller day-to-day incidents. Once an employee or customer has an impression of your company, they will be looking for proof of their opinion based on the actions they see. This alone can be a reason for employees to resign.

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Ethics and integrity are subjects businesses rarely address or review with any frequency. Create a list of guiding standards to address. They might include honesty, productivity, communication, accountability, and even how we treat our customers. This will be a foundation from which people make decisions and choices.

If there is a perceived violation of those standards, how will it be addressed? What are the consequences? Can they be identified without fear of retaliation? Demonstrate personally how important the guiding principles are to you and the success of the company. Consider terms like “situational ethics” to be red flags that should cause concern and discussion.

Finally, don’t allow levels of ethics to emerge. If the top organizational levels have one set of rules to follow and the front line another, it can cause confusion and give employees every right to say, “Yeah, but you do it,”  when confronted with an ethical violation. If caught in an ethically compromising position, apologize and correct the situation as soon as possible. If ethics and integrity are something your leadership team believes to be important, then everyone should be held equally accountable.

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