How To Create A Culture That Encourages Everyday Ethics

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “business ethics”?

Does it immediately bring to mind the complicated language of Sarbanes-Oxley? Or legalistic red tape that hinders, instead of helping, to complete project?

While that is one way to think about ethics in business, there is another, weighty perspective to have.

Daily Ethics Examples

Let’s say one of your team members calls in sick – even though he or she is not sick. Does that individual understand this choice calls into question his or her personal integrity? Or is it just something that everyone does within your organization?

Or think about people within the workplace who spread gossip and rumors. Do they see the unfairness of their actions — or do they just see themselves as engaging in a harmless past-time?

And a much more common issue today: If employees believed that wasting supplies and materials was not good stewardship of company resources, would they be more careful?

The Investment of Everyday Ethics

As you can see from those examples, everyday ethics come into play in the small, daily choices we all make. And there is a clear return-on-investment for organizations that create a culture that raises employee awareness of everyday ethics and reinforces making positive choices.

The key within these organizations is breaking the pattern of thinking that says, “Everybody does it.”

This thinking rationalizes bad behavior and needs to be replaced with, “We don’t do that here.” That approach supports ethical choices, no matter how small the matter.

The challenge is for leaders at every level is to communicate clearly and consistently about ethics. And even more importantly, to model the behaviors they want to see employees doing.

Having a set of basic principles that are easy to grasp — and that everyone agrees upon – is the beginning of empowering consistent behavior and decision making in the workplace.

Principles To Start The Journey

The five principles embodied in Samaritan’s annual Ethics in Business Award are a good starting point and can be translated to behavior that makes a difference on the job floor and jobsite, and in the cubicle and lunchroom.

Principle 1: Integrity

People with integrity conduct themselves in such a way that their words and actions are consistent, honest and in accordance with organization, industry and professional standards and expectations.

Principle 2:  Fairness & Justice

This means demonstrating equality and mutual respect by dealing fairly with coworkers, customers and suppliers. It also includes adhering to the organization’s policies, procedures and programs in a way that is just and consistent for all concerned.

Principle 3: Stewardship

Stewardship in practice means individuals are careful and responsible users of resources such as time, finances, materials, supplies, energy, equipment and tools.

Principle 4: Life-Enhancing

People with a life-enhancing focus work in such a way that affirms life as a whole, both inside and outside the office. This principle in action leads individuals to respect the rights of others, and increase quality and value for customers, coworkers, the organization, suppliers and the community.

Principle 5:  Transparency

Transparency means being genuine, truthful, open and inclusive in communicating with others. It includes demonstrating responsibility and accountability in actions, and loyalty in relationships.

Keeping Everyday Ethics at the Forefront

Leaders at every level of the organization can shape the culture by keeping positive principles in the forefront. This can be done in a number of ways, such as:

  • Discussing them in team meetings.
  • Looking for teachable moments
  • Reinforcing them when they see an employee putting one of the principles into practice
  • Coaching when you observe someone missing the mark
  • Walking the talk personally

All of this takes energy and intentionality, but the results are a stronger, healthier organization with increased productivity and profitability, as well as customers and employees who are more satisfied.

That’s a big win-win for everyone!


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