Ethics in the workplace usually consist of codes of conduct that define the nature of the ethical culture that business organization wishes to promote and maintain. These generally go beyond what is considered legal, to touch upon the concepts of respect, fairness, honesty, and extend outward through employees to customers and others who have a stake in the business’s success. While there is no one single set of ethics that works for every organizational entity, there are certain core elements that are appropriate to them all: respect, fairness, honesty, integrity, and concern for the other, whether it be another employee, the community in which the business operates, the environment, and outward to the economy.
Rhoden, N. (2008). Ethics in the workplace. Retrieved from http://www.articlesbase.com/human-resources-articles/ethics-in-the-workplace-629384.html
In this Internet article, Rhoden first makes the point that personal ethics and professional ethics have no discernible differences between them. Ethics, she claims, are ethics, regardless of where one is. She asserts that ethics, in order to be meaningful to an organization, must be practical and typically answer two key questions that executives want understood when considering an ethical approach within their business enterprise: “How do workplace ethics apply to practical goals of my organization and the work of my employees?” and “Is there reliable data to support these assertions?” (Rhoden, 2008). She then references information from the Ethics Resource Center, a nonprofit independent organization that exists to promote ethical business practices. The ERC assists executives and other leaders by helping to identify ethical risks inherent in their businesses, and showing them a ways to establish appropriate, higher ethical standards for the conduct of their businesses.
This source begins to define workplace ethics, and the relationship between ethics and workplace and the ability of executives to manage ethical risks.
Kerns, C. D. (2003). Creating and sustaining an ethical workplace culture. Graziado Business Review, Vol. 6, Iss. 3. Retrieved from http://gbr.pepperdine.edu/2010/08/Creating-and-Sustaining-an-Ethical-Workplace-Culture/
In this scholarly, credible, peer-reviewed journal article, Kerns declares, first of all, that ethics is about behavior. It is, when faced with a difficult decision or choice, about doing the right thing, as culturally defined (in Western culture, this means promoting the interests of others, respect, integrity, honesty, fairness, and so on in our human relationships). He then states that the purpose of the article is to help guide thinking and action “toward creating and sustaining an ethical workplace culture.” Ethical workplace culture is driven by values such as wisdom and knowledge, self-control, justice and fair guidance, transcendence, love and kindness, and courage and integrity. These values help people in business develop appropriate attitudes that reflect those values, which results in a value-driven behavior chain that is ethical. These values, in order to be meaningful, must result in behavior that is practical and reasonable. Kerns finally gives the formula for such ethical behavior as: virtuous values plus aligned action plus behavioral standards/codes equals increased ethical behavior.
This source continues to define workplace ethics, and how they are related to an ethical workplace culture and the values that drive that culture.
The Necessity of an Ethical Workplace
Ethics Resource Center. (2010). 2009 National Business Ethics Survey : The importance of ethical culture: Increasing trust and driving down risks. Retrieved from http://www.ethics.org/files/u5/CultureSup4.pdf
This survey, which is done by a nonprofit organization engaged in the teaching of ethical behavior to business, discusses the results of the 2009 National Business Ethics Survey. The authors explain that in any workplace, leaders, or executives, control the behavior of the people within the organization by deciding who is hired, who is retained, who is fired, or who is promoted. Lower-level workers represent the culture of the organization by choosing those to whom they will listen, whom they admire, whether or not they ask questions when they don’t know something, and whether they acknowledge work rules publicly, but worked to get whatever outcomes they wish in private. Workers are the ones who most understand “how things are,” as opposed to how they are supposed to be. They understand how things really get done. And, the author asserts, that is the essence of ethical culture in business.
Most scholars and others agree that, in order to be successful in the long-term, an organization needs to develop an ethical culture, but one that is consistent for everyone.
National Academy of Engineering. (2006). Importance of ethical behavior in the workplace. The Ethics Office at Texas Instruments Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.onlineethics.org/cms/4745.aspx
This article, which comes from the ethics office of a major national corporation, is a series of advice points from The Ethics Office at Texas Instruments Corporation. The advice was written by either Glenn Coleman, the Manager of Ethics Communication and Education, or Carl Skooglund, Texas Instruments Ethics Director. These men offer nine advice points that could be listed as follows: a) ethical standards play an important role in protecting company assets, b) damaging acts are not always obvious, and sometimes the most damaging of these are the least obvious, c) people sometimes engage in what these men term subtle subversion, but there are ways to combat this, d) other “silent saboteurs,” e) how to act with ethics that are unquestionable and with integrity, f) the “small stuff” is the big stuff, g) still other silent saboteurs, h) intangible crimes that are easily rationalized (such as taking a pen), and i) help with making ethical decisions when the answer is not obvious.
This article continues to explain the importance of having an ethical culture in business, as it contributes to the health of the organization and to its reputation.
Corporate Ethical Behavior
Baker, T. L., Hunt, T. G., and Andrews, M. C. (2006). Promoting ethical behavior and organizational citizenship behaviors: The influence of corporate ethical values. Journal of Business Research, Vol. 59, Iss. 7.
This study, published in a highly regarded business journal, examined the outcomes of ethical behavior in work organizations in terms of a model of antecedents, such as corporate ethical values, organizational justice, and organizational commitment. 489 members of the National Association of Purchasing Managers were surveyed and compared with what was predicted by the model developed by the authors. The results of the study indicated that the data obtained from the survey fit the model of antecedents very well. The authors suggest that there are important implications for managers, and they point to the need for future research in this area.
An organization may be ethical in its relationship with its employees, but can certainly be unethical in its relationships with its customers, vendors, and others who have a stake in the organization’s success. This article begins to help us understand the importance of an ethical framework that not only enculturates those within the organization, but extends outward to customers, the community, and others who have a stake in the organization’s success.
O’Brien, G. (2014). Olympic lessons for business: Failure can build resilience. Business Ethics. Retrieved from http://business-ethics.com/
In many businesses and organizations, there is a belief that perfection is not only possible, but that it is a strategic business plan for how one moves up through the ranks and become successful. O’Brien, an Olympian writing for this Internet business magazine, debunks this belief by suggesting that having an attitude of “we are the best” can lead to unethical behavior even on the part of good people. People being driven by, or corporations being driven by, expectations that either implicitly or explicitly tells everyone that no mistakes are made or can be made encourages people to hide the mistakes that they do make, sometimes disastrously. Failure, according to the author, can help people be more honest about the work that they do and more honest with themselves about who they are when they do that work. The author additionally suggest that it is important to link the company’s values to its business strategy. And ultimately, in good organizations, everyone understands clearly “how we do business.
This article continues to look at an organization of responsibility not only to its own employees, but to those outside of the organization who either benefit from the organization’s success, or who work for the organization’s success. An ethical framework, to be genuine and effective, must be consistent both internally and externally.