Building Ethical Performance Culture

04/07/2021 1 By indiafreenotes

Provide Protection for Employees

Most employees will want to do the right thing especially if they work for a company that has high moral and ethical standards. It can be difficult for anyone to report unethical behavior that they witness in other people at the company. Shy or introverted employees may find it particularly challenging to report unethical behavior. Almost anyone would feel intimidated if they felt the need to report the unethical behavior of one of their superiors or someone in a senior management position.

Offer Formal Ethics Training

A formal ethics training program sends a strong message about a company’s ethical stance. Seminars, workshops, and other ethical training programs reinforce the organization’s standards of conduct and clarify the types of behaviors that the company deems permissible or out of bounds. Situational examples help to address how to handle possible ethical dilemmas. Workshops can help employees to work on their problem-solving skills. Trainings may include consultations from peers or mentors.

Top Management Leads Ethics by Example

One of the most noticeable ways that companies can demonstrate their commitment to creating an ethical organizational culture is to ensure that top managers and leaders lead by example. Employees look to the behavior of top management as an example of the type of behavior that the company finds acceptable in the workplace. Actions speak louder than words, so when top executives display ethical behavior, it sends a positive message to employees. Senior leaders need to be mindful of the fact that they’re being watched and be sure to practice what they preach.

Research backs up the notion of leading by example. Psychologist, Al Bandura is known for his research on observational learning. Bandura’s stages of observational learning are:

  • Attention
  • Retention
  • Reproduction
  • Motivation

Reinforce Behavior You Want, and Don’t Reinforce Behavior You Don’t Want

Corporate culture always begins at the top. Managers should be evaluated on their ethical behavior as part of their annual performance appraisals. Their appraisals should include specific questions about how their decisions measure up against the code of ethics. Top executives should also be evaluated on the means they take to achieve their ethical goals as well as how the means lead to the ends.

Once again, research supports ethical principles. The principle of operant conditioning, by B.F. Skinner, represents that it’s possible to reinforce the behavior you want to see in others. The principle of operant conditioning also shows that companies shouldn’t reinforce behavior they don’t want to see in others.

People who act ethically should be noticeably rewarded for their behavior and those who fail to act and behave ethically should have consequences for unethical behavior. Rather than fire good employees who demonstrate a single ethics violation, the company may choose to provide correct feedback for the behavior along with a short probationary period. Correction should be conducted in the spirit of collaboration and education rather than punishment or chastisement.

Communicate Clear Expectations of Good Ethics

Companies that create and disseminate an official code of ethics send a clear message of the expectations for their employees. A code of ethics or code of conduct clearly outlines the organization’s primary values and ethical rules that they expect everyone to follow. The code should indicate that it applies to attire, attitudes, and behavior. Cultural norms and expectations are also inferred and are easily detected by observing the environment.

While it’s good to have a written record of the code of ethics, means nothing if top management fails to model ethical behavior. Employees are observant. They take note of whether the company is adhering to the ethical principles that it set or whether they are merely paying lip service.

Managers role to Develop

Inter-organizational: Most discussions of organizational culture focus on internal relationships. Still, employees are keenly conscious of how a company treats suppliers, customers, competitors, and civil society stakeholders, so building and maintaining stakeholder trust will improve organizational culture. Moreover, companies need to ensure that their values and mission statements amount to more than words on a website. Business success and core values are not contradictory concepts. That said, building an ethical culture sometimes means walking away from lucrative opportunities. Companies can be sure their employees will notice.

Intergroup: The quality of relationships among groups is critical to consider in any attempt to build an ethical culture. Celebrating a team whose high performance may stem from questionable conduct gives it power and a mystique that is difficult to challenge, and this can undermine values across the organization. Teams working in sustainability or compliance often need to scrape for power and resources; when members are attached to matrixed working groups, accountability can get watered down.

Group: Socialization into group memberships and relationships is a core aspect of human culture. At work, the key determinant tends to be an employee’s group or team. As organizations become more geographically diffuse and loosely aligned, it becomes harder to set and define consistent organizational culture. Focusing on team conditions can empower middle managers to feel responsible for changing culture and group dynamics to foster more effective ways of working. While clarity in roles and tasks is key to a successful team, so is psychological safety. If employees feel secure in taking risks and expressing themselves, teams will be more creative, successful, and ethical.

Interpersonal: Organizations can also focus on how employees interact across the hierarchy. Abuse of power and authority is a key factor that degrades organizational culture. When decisions around promotions and rewards seem unfair and political, employees disregard organizational statements about values and begin pursuing their own agendas. Building an ethical culture from an interpersonal perspective requires meaningful protections that empower all employees and stakeholders, even the least powerful, to raise concerns and express grievances. Meanwhile, leaders must recognize the outsized role they play in setting culture and driving adherence to ethics, and they must learn to exercise influence carefully.

Individual: How individual employees are measured and rewarded is a key factor that sustains or undermines ethical culture. In the face of pressure to meet growth targets by any means necessary a belief that the ends justify the means unethical behavior is to be expected. Therefore, the rewards system is an excellent place to start. And diversity and inclusion initiatives enable individual employees to bring their whole selves to work: Employees who feel it unnecessary to hide aspects of their social identity to fit into the dominant culture will experience less conflict between personal and organizational values and will express themselves more confidently making them more inclined to raise concerns about ethics.