Crafting a Code of Ethical and Harmonious Workplace Conduct
Business Leadership/Ownership/Team Advising Services
Many thought leaders state what behaviors and mindsets are essential for an ethical and harmonious workplace culture, yet
While Ethical Intelligence is one of the most valuable skills to guide you in both your personal and professional spheres of influence, having a formal Workplace Code of Ethical Conduct roadmap that is applied equally to everyone in your business/organization is an essential tool for defining and upholding an honorable and harmonious working environment.
Although Ethics and Compliance matters are usually paired together, compliance is a legal function of business that addresses regulations, statues, etc. Crafting a formal Code of Ethical and Harmonious Workplace Conduct is a process that clearly guides all employees in honorable engagement with one another as well as management and leadership and all your company's stakeholders in a manner that is reflective of your organization's mission, vision and values can effectively address potential behavioral issues well before they become internal and public disasters. Now more than ever, the conduct and decision-making processes within your company are highly visible in a globally connected society. Both facts and mis-information travel at lightning speed, and the costs of an unethical culture are not just financial.
"Compliance and ethics are like intersecting circles. There is a point where they overlap and both need careful and equal consideration. The question is, when they don’t overlap and there is an ethics issue, to whom do your people go for an ethical resolution? It is important to keep in mind that compliance is a reactive reality, in that one reacts to law that one did not have anything to do with its creation.
"Ethics, however, is only proactive. It is a personal choice to be or not. Therefore compliance is letter of the law and ethics is spirit of the law. Can a compliance ethics officer do both justice? I doubt it! Please don’t get me wrong here, I have a tremendous respect for the Compliance professionals. They are brilliant people, but ethics is not their formal training.Would you want someone who isn’t a JD or trained compliance professionals, doing compliance in your organization? Of course not! Well how about ethics? Why would you have someone not trained in ethics, deal with ethics? It is time to separate the titles and concepts of a compliance/ethics officer or compliance/ethics training (which is it?).
"Ethics can only be a proactive process. To be ethical is to focus on values, character, principles, etc what will give you a foundation to make those tough decisions, before they happen. If companies put as much time, effort and money into ethics training as they do for compliance training, develop proactive, ongoing training in both areas, maybe, just maybe, the way business is conducted, the way people are trained and treated, will take a major step in the ethical direction, which may help people choose to do right, rather than just make them do right." - Frank Bucaro, "The Intersection Where Compliance Meets Ethics," Ethisphere.com.
A critical point about compliance programs is made by Todd Haugh, assistant professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business:
"Companies with rigorous compliance programs hope such programs will curtail employee wrongdoing. But to prevent employee misconduct, companies also have to understand how employees reach unethical decisions — and what affects their decision-making processes." - "The Trouble With Corporate Compliance Programs," MIT Sloan Management Review (2017).
According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, the U.S. is facing an major crisis of trust in institutions. Employees stated that trust "cements the employer-employee relationship" and 78% said that "how a company treats its employees is one of the best indicators of its level of trustworthiness." Additionally, 67% said that "a good reputation may get me to try a product, but unless I come to trust the company behind the product, I will soon stop buying it.”
Regardless if it's in your personal or professional life, trust is sacred -
and once damaged it may be difficult if not impossible to win it back.
And according to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Culture Trends, "Values define your company at its core, and are among the most important aspects for attracting and retaining great employees. 71% of professionals say they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that has a mission they believe in and shared values. Additionally, nearly 2 in 5 (39%) professionals would leave their current job if their employer were to ask them to do something they have an ethical or moral conflict with."
Ethical business owners and leaders will agree that both their personal and organizational reputations are their most important asset. With that said, is your reputation properly understood, proactively attended to, and protected from potentially damaging issues and crises? Reputational risk awareness is a key aspect to include when crafting your Workplace Culture Code of Ethical Conduct.
"'The 2019 'Ethical Enterprise: Doing the Right Things in the Right Ways, Today and Tomorrow' Human Resource Institute (HRI) survey commissioned by [the] American Management Association (AMA) found that leaders are the key to culture. The top-ranked process was having 'leaders support and model ethical behavior,' and the second-ranked process was having 'consistent communications from all leaders.'
"The survey also found that the single most important ethical leadership behavior is 'keeping promises,' followed by 'encouraging open communication,' 'keeping employees informed,' and 'supporting employees who uphold ethical standards.' If an organization has leaders who simply don’t 'walk the talk' when it comes to ethics, there’s little hope of maintaining a strong ethical culture.
"As for specific programs and practices, a corporate code of conduct is viewed as being most important. Such a code must reflect and reinforce the values and principles of an organization. Rounding out the top five programs are 'ethics training for all members of the organization,' 'CSR programs,' 'ombudsman services,' and 'helplines.' In summary, employees need to have a code to set the ethics foundation, training to help people truly understand it, and programs that permit them to inquire about and report ethical violations."
Other questions to consider: Is your workplace environment psychologically safe so that employees are protected when reporting ethical violations? Is your business proactively addressing and educating everyone regarding the harm that can come from both conscious and unconscious biases? Is your culture change reactive - or change responsive? Is power being used ethically? Is there a collective leadership mindset that invests in a deliberately developmental approach to employee growth, innovation, performance and productivity - or is it running the same old status quo programs, gumming up your company's Internal Operating System, and opening you up to unnecessary risks, burnout, high turnover, and even retaliation-driven unethical behavior from dissatisfied employees and stakeholders? Is your employee wellness program actually working to increase your employees' "whole person" well-being - or is it a wasted investment and useless gesture in terms of positive, integrated and sustainable behavioral habit changes?
"Behavioral ethics is different from traditional philosophy. Instead of focusing on how people ought to behave, behavioral ethics studies why people act as they do. Arguably, it is more useful to understand our own motivations t
han to understand the philosophy of Aristotle.
"Research in behavioral ethics finds that people are far from completely rational. Most ethical choices are made intuitively, by feeling, not after carefully analyzing a situation. Usually, people who make unethical decisions are unconsciously influenced by internal biases, like the self-serving bias, by outside pressures, like the pressure to conform, and by situational factors that they do not even notice."
- Ethics Unwrapped, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin
Need guidance in crafting or revising your Code of Ethical and Harmonious Workplace Conduct ?
Regardless of whether your current code of ethical, honorable and harmonious workplace conduct needs an
upgrade, or you don't even have a formal document that defines it both internally and to the public,
my approach is holistic and incorporates all of the areas listed below.
Please contact me for more information, fees - and to determine if we are a good fit.