Ethical behaviour is as important in the workplace as it is in personal lives. It affects not only the individual but the entire organisation. And most importantly, the success of the business depends on the trust of all parties involved. Think of it as something ‘sustainable’. Just as sustainable is an important word for the environmentally inclined, so is it in the world of business.
Companies that conduct business with an ethical approach earn not only trust and respect but also loyalty from their employees, business partners, as well as their clientele. It is an established way of empowering employees with an understanding of how to conduct business while upholding the organisation’s core values.
With a strong ethical culture within the business, employees become equipped with the tools needed to foster an environment that leaves them feeling secure, motivated and comfortable whenever faced with a dilemma at work.
Every company expects behaviours that are acceptable and others which are not. Often, these get summarised in job descriptions during the interview process. And though every individual has an inherent understanding of what correct workplace conduct is, diverse cultural and personal backgrounds can influence their implementation.
So to make sure that consistency is present across all levels, organisations often establish frameworks and policies to shape their work practices, interactions and behaviour within an organisation. While guidelines can vary between companies, the gist typically revolves around work attire, language and harassment.
Most businesses will incorporate the following ethics and values within their framework:
- Cohesiveness/ Teamwork
- Public perception
When these fundamentals are incorporated within the ethical framework of the company, it boosts employee morale and ensures long-term sustenance for the business.
Setting a professional code of ethics
This code applies to every member of the company. Be it an employee, manager, or executive, everyone on board is bound by this code. In this sense, top-down support is critical. If the senior management doesn’t act ethically or support those who do, the organisation’s ethical code will have very little meaning.
Here are some reasons why workplace ethics are so important and what all parties involved can hope to achieve from them:
- Builds teamwork and productivity
Fairly obvious, workplace ethics foster teamwork and increased productivity among employees. It is the perfect way of aligning the values of the business with those of the employees. But you can only hope to achieve this balance by constantly reinforcing these values among your workers.
They need to see you practice what you preach and will follow suit accordingly. The result will be an increase in morale and motivation and consequently, improved productivity.
- Decision-making prowess
With an ethical approach in the workplace, you encourage a culture that makes decisions based on ethics. The same also enhances transparency and accountability when any business decisions are undertaken. It is a means that ultimately sensitises you and your staff on how to act consistently even in difficult times.
- Improves public image
A company that exhibits ethical choices earns a lot of respect while cultivating a strong image in the public domain. For example, you may decide to fulfil your corporate responsibility by reducing waste discharge from your business- a step that will no doubt gain your business favour and integrity when you value people over profits.
As this profile gains popularity, you can be sure to see your business grow. From building a strong public image, ethical conduct develops trust among customers.
- Gains consumer confidence
Closely related to building a public image is the aspect of gaining consumer confidence. Organisations need to work hard to retain customer loyalty. Following ethical practices is the easiest and perhaps simplest way to do so.
When an organisation delivers as promised or advertised, customers stay loyal. Here the benefits of ethical compliance stretch out beyond the staff and reach out to consumers.
One area where it is easy to lose consumer confidence is when companies fail to honour guarantees or deal inappropriately with complaints. But when a business takes out time to identify what’s important to its clientele and its target market, it sets the bar high. For instance, a herbal tea distributor who focuses on farming sustainability and fair trade creates a brand which supports social and environmental responsibility.
- Asset protection
Having strong values and core ethics safeguards assets. Staff that abide by workplace ethics can protect and respect the business’s assets. For instance, in line with the ethical approach, they would avoid making overseas calls using office lines.
Other examples include staff not considering taking sick leave to fill up vacation days, going for extended breaks, or utilising office supplies for personal use.
Instead, when the company values employee contributions while treating its workers well, employees feel proud of all that they do for the organisation. As such, they are more likely to feel that their job is integral to achieving the company’s mission.
Employees can only respect company property when they are treated with respect and dignity in return. This brings about a sense of pride working for such a firm. It also discourages behaviour manipulating or misusing company assets or equipment.
Ethical and behavioural guidelines in the workplace highly value dedication on all levels. Even though possessing the right skill set is essential, strong work ethics and a positive attitude can go a long way. When you have a transparent business culture for all to see, it improves business profitability by creating a positive image for your brand.
But remaining ethical is not a static issue. It needs constant review and evaluation. The company needs to review their priorities periodically and make adjustments as needed. Otherwise the standards and training become outdated.
Adrian Nathaniel is an HSG presenter and keynote speaker who champions the positive use of money through conscious consumerism and values-based, ethical investing. He unites his love of mindfulness and the environment with his expertise as a licensed financial planner to offer a unique, proactive approach to money management, which he outlines in his book, The Yoga of Wealth. He is also a passionate advocate for measuring and demonstrating social & environmental impact for business.
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