Ethics in the Workplace

Here are some brief introductory points on ethics in the workplace which is also known as business ethics.

What is Ethics?

For an individual ethics can be a straight-forward interpretation of what is right or wrong, and then acting by doing the right thing based on his or her moral principles and values such as respect, honesty, fairness, responsibility, etc.

Ask a few people what do they understand by "business ethics", and you are bound to get a variety of theoretical interpretations.

Ethics in the Workplace (Business Ethics)

However, ethics in the workplace, or, business ethics, does not adopt such a simplistic approach as mentioned above. There are a variety of economic motives, and factors that impinge on workplace ethics e.g. profitability, competitors, vying for scarce resources, and management style, etc.

Workplace ethics tend to be far more complex, and requires a more practical approach, which will take these economic motives and economic factors into consideration (or into the equation) when determining organizational behaviour models.

Business Ethics Definition

A definition for business ethics can be "the values and principles (code of ethics) and the behaviour (code of conduct) that guide management and employees to actively implement good ethical behaviour practices, while carrying out their employment duties."(dqf)

Importance of Ethics in Business

Why is ethics important in business?

For the answer: Look at the outcome of bad corporate ethical behaviour at corporations such as Adelphia, Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom. People and businesses like doing business with people, and organizations, they see as being trustworthy, having competence, integrity and credibility. Basically, it makes good business sense, and is therefore good business practice to have good business ethics.

Responsibility for Ethics in the Workplace

Organizations and their managers are responsible for ensuring and applying organizational ethics. Good workplace ethics outline the behaviour that is expected of managers when faced with ethical issues while carrying out their day-to-day operations, as well as when faced with ethical problems during a time of organizational crisis.

Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct

The code of ethics, and the code of conduct, serve as guidelines to help management and employees actively implement good ethical practices. An important focus and purpose of these codes are to help maintain a healthy corporate culture within the organization.

  • Codes of ethics focus on the values and principles that are important to organizations. These make it easier for organizations to live out their mission statements.
  • Codes of conduct focus on the behaviour that is expected of managers as well as employees within organizations.

Benefits of Having Business Ethics in the Workplace

  • Good ethics substantially improves the culture or "atmosphere" within an organization.
  • Employee relations within an organization are enhanced, through the concepts of "fairness" and "trust" that come with good ethical practices.
  • The various codes of conduct serve as blueprints for behaviour during a crisis.
  • Good business ethics creates a sense of "belonging" among employees, which can lead to improved employee motivation and teamwork, which in turn would result in increased productivity.

Human Resources Policies and Procedures

Business ethics can be best implemented through the various human resource policies and procedures which would outline the behaviour expected of employees, and the procedures to be followed when carrying out their duties. These policies and procedures would also list the sanctions attached.

For more detailed advice on business ethics or assistance in updating your company's ethics policy and procedures contact us.