Ethics Within a Company

Someone asked recently whether companies had a responsibility to set ethics for their employees. I have to say, resoundingly, YES! But you have to do more than just SAY it.

As a business owner, you are responsible to lead, and that happens largely by example, but also happens when you choose to respond, or not respond, to employee issues.

One of our friends owns a business and is constantly having employee problems. He does set a good example, but he does not enforce his standards, or require the employees to abide by good work and behavior standards on the job. He does not want to have to reprimand, or to even say that he will. I learned a lot from him about how to run a business. But unhappily, I also learned a lot from him about how NOT to run one.

It has to be more than, “I do this because of who I am.” It also has to include, “You must do this as my employee, because of who WE, as a COMPANY are.” If you fail in that second part, nobody will bother to follow your example – there is no compelling reason for them to do so. They’ll walk all over you and abuse your good nature if you do not require ethical behavior from your employees.

I select clients with good ethics. I won’t work with one that is dishonest or pushes the boundaries of good integrity. I select subcontractors with the same standards. I require that kind of behavior from every person within our business. Good ethics are not just a matter of choice in our business, they are a requirement, and must stay so, or it will cease to have meaning.

I have found that when I do this, many problems fail to develop. I still have to enforce now and again. But I rarely have to do it often, or more than once with any individual. I operate several forums, and I have found that by stating an ethics and integrity policy up front, we weed out all but the most aggressive abusers – and those are detected on their first post, and removed from the group. Others respond to the invitation, respect the requirement, and we have little problem with attracting people with high ethics.

As a leader, it is your responsibility.

One Response to Ethics Within a Company

  • As a business ethics speaker, I could not agree with you more. I am called in from time to time to deal with ethics issues within a company and more times than not the root cause of those issues is either the ethics standards that are set by senior management or the ethics of the customers. Establishing ethical boundaries sets the framework for future business successes or failures.

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