Managing ethics in the workplace holds tremendous benefit for leaders and managers, benefits both moral and practical. With the work place becoming more diverse, managers face ethical choices more and more every day. With that they must be prepared to not only answer to it, but also to set the example for their subordinates. In order for this to happen, managers must fully understand the meaning of ethics. In the following paragraphs I will briefly cover the definition of ethics, the characteristics of ethical people, how leaders influence others ethics, and ethical policies and codes.
First of all, I will cover the definition of ethics. Ethics, according to Nash, author of Ethics without the Sermon, is two things. First ethics refers to well-based standards of right and wrong that prescribe what human rights ought to do. For example, it refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, and assault. Ethical standards also include virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty. Secondly, ethics refers to the study and development of ones ethical standards (Nash, 1981).
Ethical standards include such things as the right to life and the right to privacy. So, it is necessary to constantly examine our own standards to ensure that they are reasonable. We must also study our own moral beliefs and our moral conduct, and strive to ensure that we and the business for which we work, live up to standards that are reasonable. Now that I have explained the definition of ethics, I will go over some of the characteristics of ethical people. To say there are specific characteristics of ethical people I believe would be a mistake.
Studies have been conducted among employees to measure the degree to which age, gender, marital status, and education along with several other attributes, plays a part in ethical decisions. With the exception of age, non of the variables were good predictors of whether a person would make the right decision (Dressler, 1998). However, it was the older employees, when given a survey using a number of ethics related vignettes, that chose the answers that were most ethical. This could lead us to the assumption that all older employees are ethical.
Such a statement is not true, however it could possibly mean that the lack of experience, as with the younger employees, leads to wrong or unethical decisions. Which brings me to my next point. Since the work force is so diverse, be it young or old, leaders must find a way to influence everyones ethics in a positive manner. Once again, leaders must fully understand the meaning of ethics, as well as how they as a leader influence the ethics of those around them. It all goes back to the old clich, Actions speak louder than words. Though in this case you must talk the talk and walk the walk.
Malcom X said it best when he said, You cant teach what you dont know. Dont lead where you wont go. In other words leaders and managers must be well versed in managing ethics and be ready to not only teach but also set the example for their people. To merely claim a moral high ground while accepting the poor ethical condition of a business will be obvious to all. Managers must understand that workers will accept unethical actions if they think their superiors knows about them and say nothing (Dressler, 1998). In order to prove there is a commitment superiors, managers and workers alike must be pro-active and live by the word.
This involves leaders that openly make ethical decisions even when the entire organization is in a state of difficulty. It also involves the numerous ethical problems that managers and leaders must deal with on a daily basis, such as conflicts of interest between their workers and wrongful use of resources. Organizations must also have an ethics program as well as policies and code in place to benefit everyone from low level workers to top management. Which brings me to the next area of concern, the importance of Ethics policies and codes. Ethics policies and codes, a necessity in every business, make standards concrete (Dressler,1998).
It is from the executives who endorses the Approval of Code to top management who enforces the Impact of Code and finally to the employees who are influenced by the Communication of Code, that steps are taken to ensure customers, suppliers, and employees are all aware of the firms stress on ethics (Dressler,1998). Executives and top management must also realize its not only for the sake of people but for the business itself. According to Dressler, recent changes in federal sentencing guidelines makes it important that management show it has taken steps to ensure ethical behavior.
This is done through policies and codes. Simply put, if a company has published an ethics code and have been discovered to be in violation of law, the firm will be fined only five percent of the loss suffered by customers (Dressler,1998). Once again, managers can only benefit from ensuring an ethical environment is maintained within the organization. The ethics concept has come to mean various things to various people, but generally its coming to know what is right or wrong in the workplace and doing whats ight.
Consequently, there is no clear moral compass to guide leaders or workers through complex dilemmas. Prior to reading this chapter I would have thought right from wrong was common sense and that an ethical guide wasnt needed. I was also surprised to find that many organizations have ethical programs in place as well as policies and codes. I now realize it is only through these programs and the enforcement of policies that the organization will be able rise above moral dilemmas and succeed.