Ethics in the Workplace

I teach humanistic business management and am a Humanist. Ethics is central to everything we do.

Whether your ethics are explicit or not, you have a set of ethics you live by and these ideas of what is right and wrong help you make decisions. All the time.  Little decisions and big decisions. The problem in a workplace or group setting is that different people in the group have different ethics. And, we humans are herd animals, meaning, we observe what the social norms are and we go with them to not stand out. Obviously, there are individuals who don’t go with the flow, but most of us can be convinced to say 2+2 equals 5 if we are in a group of people who seem to fervently believe that is so.

This go with the flow instinct we have impacts how ethics manifest in the workplace. If what we observe is people being unethical, we assume that is accepted in this social group. It is therefore super important for people who care about values to do 3 things.

1)      Make the values of the organization explicit. Meaning, sit down and think about what you value in person to person relationships and make that explicit. How are we going to make decisions? What are we going to value in our decisions? How much money we can make? Whether or not we are helping the company? Whether or not we are helping our boss? Whether or not we are helping our customer? Whether or not we are helping the environment? What do we do when our values come in conflict? Which values should dictate our decision?

2)      Actively make decisions based on your explicit value statement!  Where most companies go wrong isn’t in the creation of a value statement, it is in the fact that they don’t actively use their values in decision making. When they don’t, it becomes clear to everyone that the value statement is just a piece of paper, but that the organization doesn’t really make decisions that way. You can change that by actively invoking the values in every day decision making. If someone is gossiping, the response is – we treat people with respect. When deliberating on a decision – the question asked out loud is – how do our different options relate to our values statement? What is the ethical decision to make? Do this – and the culture starts to change. It also means that we should not tolerate bad interpersonal behavior or “cheating” just because someone is a manager or a high performer. You either actively value your values or you don’t. This has to come from the top.

3)      Change management. There is a science to this and it involves changing the herd norm. You don’t need everyone to be on board to get this started. You just need some core people to implement it and create a new cultural norm of ethical decision making and interpersonal relationships. Their job is to discuss and make active the values and to enforce them through social discussion and decision making. Once people see that – yes, these values are actually valued, they will start to self-enforce these new ethical norms. Probably the most difficult part of this is being willing to let go of the people in your organization who are unethical and don’t change. If you keep them around, they will continue to exert social pressure towards unethical behavior and instead of having an ethical company – you will continually be fighting them. They aren’t worth it. If they can’t behave ethically, let them go.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...