There is a common misconception that ethics is a matter of conflict between one’s conscience. However, if one had to look a little closer at the term “ethics” as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, Ethics are ‘moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity’. Thus Ethics may be viewed as behaviours and actions that shape the culture of our organization.
Ethics within a company become guidelines to which its employees should adhere to, they are at the core of what the organization stands for, its brand and reputation. Positive work ethics enable a company to stand successful, reach its profitability and foster a positive work environment for its employees. Positive work ethics are the key to employee retention, attraction and talent generation within a company.
Managers within a company need to recognize the importance of their role in defining what is ethical and acceptable within their departments and teams. Acceptable ethical behaviours are not just ‘phrases’ written on an employee handbook, to be reviewed during the induction phase of an employee’s journey. They are ‘ways of practice’ that need to be consistent throughout the day to day operations and company strategy, and must be observed by members of the organization across all levels.
From research performed by Christopher McLeverty, managers have often found themselves in difficult positions to retain and implement positive work ethics, due to changes that happen within the organization. Changes occurring at a fast pace may create pressure and conflicts of interest among employees, which in turn lead to behaviours that do not reflect company ethics. Such is the example of Wells Fargo, back in 2013 when an LA Times investigation uncovered that employees had been opening unauthorized deposit accounts, due to the fact that they couldn’t keep up with target set by the CEO himself. In such a scenario, Management is to ensure that the success of the strategy should never be at the price of the primary ethics that drive the business. Needless to say, Wells Fargo abolished sales quotas in 2017 following an ongoing two year long investigation, and numerous public apologies.
In order for an organization to adhere to its ethics, each employee must know where they stand. Organizational awareness and emotional intelligence are what enable employees within the company to develop an internal moral compass to do the right thing. People want to work for an organization that they can be proud of, thus one may want to look into certain internal process and ensure they are inline with the ethics they promote; for instance, if a company claims integrity as a core value, then analysing internal processes should demonstrate this through out. Thus, promotions in said company must be based on merit and transparency, enabling all employees the opportunity to advance in their career and reach their aspired goals.
In conclusion, people want to work for companies that represent who they are and what they stand for. They want to work for managers they respect and relate to. Every company should have clear ethical guiding principles that are visible and coherent in their day to day operations, vision, mission and strategy.
Human Resources Manager
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