40 Ethical Culture Gaps To Avoid

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By Linda Fisher Thornton

Leaders set the tone for how ethical values are applied. They mentor those they lead, and serve as positive role models. It is not enough, though. for them to talk about ethical values, model what they look like in action and mentor others. They must also fiercely protect the ethical dynamics within their organizations. They are also the caretakers of ethical culture.

Leaders are the tireless caretakers of ethical culture.

There are many types of ethical culture problems. Each one can cause trouble on its own. When several are at play, watch out – the organization is at risk of ethical failure. 

Use this list of 40 Gaps to Avoid to assess your culture. These are warning signs that your ethical culture is at risk. Put a check mark beside any that you have observed in your organization. 

40 Ethical Culture Gaps To Avoid

  1. ___Boring Ethics Training
  2. ___Compliance Mindset Instead of Values Mindset
  3. ___Controlling or Fear-Based Leadership
  4. ___Crowd Following, Regardless of the Ethical Implications
  5. ___Entitlement Mentality
  6. ___Failure to Build and Protect Trust
  7. ___Failure to Enforce Ethics Expectations
  8. ___Failure to Recognize and Praise Ethical Actions
  9. ___Failure to Recognize and Punish Unethical Actions
  10. ___Failure of Top Leaders to Take Responsibility For Actions
  11. ___Firing Scapegoats Instead of Fixing the Culture and Leadership
  12. ___Ignoring Boundaries
  13. ___Ignoring Complexity of Work and Complexity of Ethical Issues 
  14. ___Ignoring Customer and/or Employee Feedback
  15. ___Intentionally Causing Harm
  16. ___Lack of Accountability
  17. ___Lack of Care and Respect for People
  18. ___Lack of Clarity About What Ethics Means in the Organization
  19. ___Lack of Commitment to Protect the Planet
  20. ___Lack of a Moral Compass
  21. ___Lack of Performance System Integration
  22. ___Lack of Positive Role Models
  23. ___Lack of Relevant Ethics Training
  24. ___Lack of Transparency
  25. ___Leaders Not Aware of Increasing Ethical Expectations
  26. ___Leaders Not Staying Competent as Times Change
  27. ___Linear Problem-Solving
  28. ___Marketing an Organization as Ethical When It’s Not
  29. ___No Code of Ethics
  30. ___No Performance Guidelines or Boundaries For Behavior
  31. ___No Safe Space to Discuss Ethical Grey Areas
  32. ___Oversimplified Conversations About Ethics
  33. ___Oversimplified Decision-Making That Leaves Out Ethics
  34. ___Oversimplified Definition of “Ethical” (“Do the Right Thing”)
  35. ___Power Plays by Top Leaders Instead of Open Communication and Involvement
  36. ___Singular Focus on Profitability and Results
  37. ___Treating Ethics as an Event, Class, or Task Rather Than an Ongoing Priority
  38. ___Unintentionally Harming Constituents
  39. ___Vague Messages About Ethics and Values
  40. ___Widespread Acceptance That Unethical Behavior and Decisions Are “The Way Things Are Around Here”

Leaders need to be the “cultural caretakers,” always on the lookout for ways to improve the ethical dynamics in their organizations. Preventing these 40 Ethical Culture Gaps is a great start. 

 

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About Linda Fisher Thornton
Linda Fisher Thornton is Founder and CEO of Leading in Context, and author of the award-winning book 7 Lenses. She teaches as Adjunct Assoc. Prof. for University of Richmond SPCS. She is leading a movement to help leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.

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