Maybe you haven’t given a second thought to this issue, but ethics in the workplace are important, even from small businesses. While you might assume all of your employees are on the same moral page, they might not be and your reputation could be on the line. Obviously, it is not good for a company to be known as unethical, but you must make an effort to set an ethical standard for your company.
Write it down! “The ethical standard should be written down in order to educate and train employees on what is acceptable behavior. It is unfair and ill-fated to assume that all individuals share the same set of values and common sense. Thus, having written standards allows for educational opportunities and promotes fairness,” explains Don Dennis, founder of the California-based Law Firm of Don R. Dennis Jr. “Today, social media dominates a large portion of our focus. Some people have lost sight as to what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Thus, providing education to employees is extremely important if you want an organization to achieve a certain reputation.”
But just writing down the code of ethics isn´t enough. You yourself have to live them. “It doesn’t matter if ethical standards are written down. Good corporate governance encourages written codes, but employees get cynical if they see their managers fail to live up to the codes,” explains Anthony Alfidi, CEO of Alfidi Capital. “It’s always a good idea to have a set of ethics but they mean little if top management doesn’t follow them. Employees will copy behavior they perceive to be “successful” in a corporate culture. If they see sales managers lie and cheat their way to success, they will behave similarly and ignore published ethical standards. Managers have to do the right thing on day one.”
Get all the employees onboard. “Motivating employees to comply with ethical standards both when they are being directly supervised and when they are allowed to make decisions with minimal oversight can be challenging,” notes Dennis. “However, success can be attained by allowing employees to realize a vested interest in the organization. Employees become vested in an organization for a variety of reasons. Reasons range from financial compensation, pride in their work, and the desire to excel within the organization. But no supervisor will be able to realize more than short-lived successes if they do not allow for open communication between employees and management in cases of situations not covered by the rules.”
If an employee acts unethically and has misrepresented your company, take some sort of action such as punishing those who violate your firm’s ethics policy.