Gone are the days when the primary and only responsibility of businesses was making a profit for their owners. Today companies are also required to show responsibility to other stakeholders including their employees, the local community and even the government. Simply put, companies must be ethical in the manner in which they operate.
Today, it is commonplace for companies to have a written code of ethics and standards. However, most do not go beyond the development of these tools meaning some are still marred by scandals and other corporate issues. This suggests that it is important for companies to not only develop codes of ethics but also to establish them and ensure their implementation in company operations.
Managers may promote the effective establishment of ethical company culture by:
1. Practicing Ethical Leadership
As leaders, managers play a central role in keeping employees motivated and engaged. More than that, however, leaders also influence the behavior of their followers. According to Albert Bandura’s theories, for example, followers can observe and learn the behaviors of their leaders. In other words, to nurture an ethical company culture, managers must behave ethically and responsibly.
2. Reinforce Ethical Behaviour with Rewards
The theory of operant conditioning proposes that desired behavior can be fostered and increased by using the system of positive reinforcement (rewards). For employees to not only begin, but also continue acting ethically, they should be rewarded and recognized. This recognition can come in different ways including awards, and verbal praise.
3. Establish a Reporting System
Employees need to be encouraged to report any unethical behavior by their colleagues or seniors in an effective manner. This includes reporting behavior such as discrimination, harassment or even sexual abuse.
Employees should be allowed to report such incidences anonymously and without any repercussions. More importantly, the company should act appropriately on all allegations of unethical conduct.
4. Communicate Clear Ethical Expectations of Your Employees
There should be clear guidelines on how employees are expected to behave and how they are expected to interact with various stakeholders including co-workers, customers, local community and management among others. These guidelines and expectations should be communicated to all employees.
5. Equip Employees with Tools Required to Act Ethically
To be successful in nurturing an ethical company culture among employees, it is important to make the company culture attainable. This entails equipping employees with the tools they require to behave ethically. For example, employees could be given training, appropriate supervision or even an ombudsman department dedicated to promoting ethics and integrity in the company.
6. Give Constructive Feedback
Even when employees act unethically, managers need to give constructive and corrective feedback rather than chastising or punishing offenders. Constructive feedback motivates greater behavioral change.