Advancing Ethics in Your Organization (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The first post in this series addressed ACCOUNTABILITY. The second asked you to evaluate your IMPACT. This week’s four ways to advance ethics in your organization focus on MANAGING THE SYSTEM.

Managing the System

  1. COMMUNICATE OPENLY ABOUT ETHICAL ISSUES: Are ethical expectations clear and widely communicated? Does widely communicated include open conversations about grey areas? If not, start those conversations, framing them as important ways to prevent ethical problems and improve the organization. 
  2. BRING ETHICS TO LIFE: Does ethics have a life beyond procedures and the shelf full of ethics manuals? Are the materials readable and relatable so that people can succeed in applying them? Are they current? Are they followed? If not, find ways to bring ethics to life so that people know ethics is “the way we do things” and not “that binder on the second shelf.”
  3. REWARD ETHICAL CHOICES: Is ethical behavior rewarded just as much as financial profitability (in promotions, awards and public recognition)? If not, the message of your ethics system is “we are ethical unless it interferes with making money.” Get it straight by making ethics at least as important as (or more important than) profits.
  4. INTEGRATE ETHICS INTO EVERYTHING: Is ethics an integrated part of all training and performance management instead of being “separate?” If ethics training is separate that may give the impression that ethics can be separated from good performance and good leadership. If performance is rewarded based on results and not ethics, you’ll get results without ethics. Make sure that ethics is a thread woven through every learning experience for every audience and through the fabric of your culture. 

We may think that things are going well when there are no major problems, but that’s a “false reading” for ethics. Without prevention and taking the steps recommended in this series, we will be “putting out fires” and cleaning up damage to our organization’s reputation. Don’t wait for that to happen. This week, work on these important ways to MANAGE THE SYSTEM.

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership

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