How to clarify the role ethics must play in the workplace

The difference between espousal and practice, congruence between what is said and done, and walk the talk are just some of the management-speak used to describe (and emphasize) the need to eliminate the gap between saying-doing. Ethical conduct in the workplace faces a similar challenge. To help clarify a general confusion about the notion of ethics in business, you should become familiar with the following demands…

1. Embrace the need for business ethics.

Business ethics is not a recent phenomenon, even though ethics in business has received attention recently because of some high-profile, distressing examples. Thousand of years ago, Confucius, Plato, Socrates and Cicero were promoting the need to behave ethically.

2. Promote ethics as a discipline.

Ethics is much more than a debate restricted to academic and religious circles. Business ethics is a management discipline with which everyone in an organization must be familiar. Staff and management need to embrace the centrality and importance of ethics in day-to-day organizational life. Ethics management programs have practical applications in many areas of management and the approach adopted must make clear those benefits.

3. Communicate a link between ethics and management.

You can’t afford not to instill among your people a need to develop and adhere to a code of ethical conduct. Even though there may be those who (incorrectly) associate ethics with areas other than management (religion, for example), Diane Kirrane, in ‘Managing Values: A Systematic Approach to Business Ethics,’ (Training and Development Journal, November 1990), asserted correctly that: ‘… altering people’s values or souls isn’t the aim of an organizational ethics program—managing values and conflict among them is …’

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