A manager might have several roles to play when it comes to the success of a company. They’re responsible for helping the company reach its goals alongside cultivating meaningful relationships in the workplace.
Managers are also responsible for fostering a solid culture of ethics in the workplace. Sure, unethical behavior has been around for a long time. But what can managers do differently to ensure the employees in their organization follow the path of ethics? How can they make sure employees are comfortable discussing the ethical dilemmas they face? What elements can help foster a strong culture of ethics?
Ethics Start with Hiring
One of the best ways to prevent ethical lapses in the workplace is to run an ethics screening on candidates during the hiring process. Hiring an employee who values ethics is much better than encouraging an unethical candidate to behave in an ethical manner.
But how do you hire ethical candidates and weed out the unethical ones?
Aside from scanning resumes and running background and reference checks, asking situation-specific questions and taking personality tests offer a great litmus test for ethics in potential candidates.
Through personality tests, managers can unravel a candidate’s temperament, mood, and point of view. Through situation-specific questions, on the other hand, managers can determine how a potential employee might react if any ethical dilemmas knock at their door.
Reinforce the Importance of Ethics During the Onboarding Process
During the onboarding process, introduce your new employees to your company’s Code of Ethics. Help them navigate how they must react if they’re faced with any ethical dilemmas down the line.
You can see your organization’s Code of Ethics as a moral compass that can direct your employees to do the right thing. You can also use the onboarding process to familiarize the employees with your company’s ethical decision-making process.
Train Employees on Ethics
You might have a great Code of Ethics in place. But you can’t expect your employees to stick to it unless they don’t understand it fully. This is where the need for training comes in. Conduct regular training to educate your employees on your company’s code of ethics, help them understand why it is critical to abide by it, and what repercussions are to follow if they deviate from the road of ethics.
Managers must conduct consistent workshops to educate employees on how to solve a problem or make a decision in an ethical manner.
Make sure the training you deploy is engaging enough for your employees to retain everything it offers. This can be done through videos, role-play, quizzes, and more. The more consistent the training, the better your employees understand what is expected of them in the workplace.
Communicate About Ethics Often
Another magic ingredient to brew an ethical culture is constant communication about ethics.
Managers must ensure they convey topics related to ethical matters to their employees every chance they get. For instance, managers can squeeze in a quick discussion about ethical standards during staff meetings.
Reward Ethical Behaviors
Most companies expect their employees to behave ethically but a few care to acknowledge it. To create a space where ethical behavior is encouraged, it’s critical that managers reward any “spark of ethics” when they notice it.
If a manager sees an employee doing the right thing, they must not hesitate to thank them.
Managers can also come up with fresh ideas to implement ethics in the workplace. Another great way to promote ethics is to include ethical behavior in performance reviews and reward the employees who display consistent ethical behavior.
Management Must Lead by Example
If managers expect their workplace to sail on the ship of ethics, it is critical they lead by example.
Employees generally look up to the management to model behavior that is ethical and acceptable. If, for instance, a sales manager is seen deceiving customers, the employees will naturally reflect similar behavior.
Similarly, when managers display high standards of ethical behavior, employees begin to notice and follow their lead. Leading by example also gives managers more credibility when it comes to expecting ethical behavior from employees.
Treat Your Employees Well
Aside from becoming role models for their employees, managers must reflect on how they currently treat their employees. For instance, it is hypocritical if a manager constantly talks about ethical behavior at work but discriminates between employees.
Being respectful toward their employees is the best way managers can build meaningful relationships that in turn ensure ethical behaviors from employees.
Sure, it is important for managers to be mindful of the organization’s guidelines for hiring and managing employees. However, managers must also ensure they don’t ask “the unreasonable” from employees.
When a manager shows they put the employees’ well-being and growth first, it unfolds a company culture built on a solid foundation of ethics.
Make it Easy For Employees to do the Right Thing
Difficulty in reporting wrongdoings can be one of the greatest barriers to creating an ethical company culture. Setting up an anonymous ethics hotline helps employees report misconduct easily and efficiently.
An ethics hotline might be a great way for employees to report ethics-related concerns and receive guidance. However, it's important that the management acts on these reports promptly and brings swift resolutions.
Quick action on the company’s part makes employees feel heard. When you take serious action against any report, the employees feel confident to bring concerns forward. The anonymity factor of an ethics hotline also ensures employees don’t have to fear retaliation when reporting something.
No human being is perfect, and no company is fully immune to incidents of misconduct. However, a great manager ensures employees value ethics above everything else. Training and rewards help employees get a better grasp on behavior that is considered ethical. While the task of promoting ethics is no small feat, it becomes a lot easier if managers lead by example. If a manager displays ethical qualities, it is easy for employees to follow suit.
Credit: Giovanni Gallo is the Co-CEO of Ethico, where his team strives to make the world a better workplace with compliance hotline services, sanction and license monitoring, and workforce eLearning software and services.
Growing up as the son of a Cuban refugee in an entrepreneurial family taught Gio how servanthood and deep care for employees can make a thriving business a platform for positive change in the world. He built on that through experience with startups and multinational organizations so ComplianceLine’s solutions can empower caring leaders to build strong cultures for the betterment of every employee and their community.
When he’s not working, Gio’s wrangling his four young kids, riding his motorcycle, and supporting education, families, and the homeless in the Charlotte community.