"Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do." - Potter Stewart
Ethics is the compass that helps us decide the right course of action when faced with the dilemma of choosing between what is right and what may seem right but isn't. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ethics as “The discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation".
We see the role ethics play in a lot of scenarios of our daily life. Be it online shopping or investing in something, we trust people or companies that are ethical and practice the values they promote. There is a reason why Amazon is one of the world's largest corporations- they practice their ethos of being the most customer-centric company on earth. Therefore it is no surprise why so many people around the globe prefer it for online shopping even when there are so many other options available.
Ethics are the cornerstone of building credibility in any sphere of life. Practicing ethical behavior makes you more trustable and builds long-term relationships both in your personal and professional life. Ethics in professional settings matters even more as it fosters a positive work environment and creates a space where everyone can bring out the best in themselves at work without the fear of being exploited.
According to a survey by Deloitte in 2019, Millenials support businesses that align with their values. They support companies that bring a positive impact to society and would not hesitate to stop purchasing from them if they don't approve of their business policies or unfair trade practices.
That brings us to the question - what do we exactly mean by ethics in the workplace and why is it significant. In this post, we will go precisely through that and also see how we can encourage it.
Ethics at workplace
Ethics can mean different things in different settings. In a workplace, ethics are a defined set of rules to be followed by employees that align with the company's values and ideals. Everyone at the workplace must follow these ethical practices to maintain consistent standards and build trustworthiness among peers and the outside world.
Ethics at the workplace can include -
Dependability- engaging in consistent ethical behavior builds trust among employees and clients and builds long-term relationships.
Transparency- openness in dealings and communication builds trust.
Integrity- in situations of moral dilemma, integrity helps in decision making in line with ethical standards.
Respect for all - whether it be the CEO or a janitor, an ethical workplace treats everyone with equal respect.
Responsibility - In the event of errors in the workplace, accountability for one's actions and learning from them is crucial for the growth of the employees and the company.
Importance of ethics in the workplace
Ethics are the backbone of any progressive and reputed workplace. The practice of unethical conduct in any form and not addressing it eventually builds an unethical work atmosphere which in the long term brings down the reputation, productivity, and profits of the organization.
"Ethical decisions ensure that everyone's best interests are protected. When in doubt, don't." - Harvey Mackay
Here are some reasons why it is so important to maintain ethical standards in the workplace-
1. Positive work culture and enhances team cooperation- Having ethical codes in the workplace establishes acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. It builds transparency and trust among the employees.
2. Trust is built - Public image is a crucial factor in the success of a business. Businesses that are known for their ethical practices enjoy loyal clientele and foster a long-term relationship with them. Employees also prefer to work long-term with such companies. Companies like Infosys and Tata are known for supporting philanthropic causes and thus enjoy a credible reputation among the masses.
3.Asset protection- Ethical practices ensure the prevention of scams and fraudulent activities which can potentially bring great economic losses and mar the reputation of a company. In case of such events, ethical frameworks are necessary to take action against the accused to set an example of what isn't tolerable in the workplace.
4. Increases productivity and growth over time- In a workplace where employees are ethical, productivity is enhanced because people are presented with equal growth opportunities, which in turn fosters healthy competition and provides due recognition to the value they bring to the table.
5. They serve as a roadmap in adverse situations- In cases of unexpected huge economic losses or fierce competition, the ethical values of an organization decide its future course of actions. During the pandemic, this was evident in the way the organizations handled their employees during unpredictable times. Many laid off a large percentage of their employees while some offered employees the flexibility of working from home.
6. Builds loyalty to the organization- Employees that work in an ethical organization are more loyal to their workplace and are more likely to work there for a long time.
Now that we know how important ethics are in a workplace, let us see some ways in which it can be promoted-
Practicing it from the top-down
Practice of ethical conduct by the top of hierarchy sets an example for the employees to do the same. It sets up the culture of ethical conduct in an inspiring way.
Open communication between management and employees
Addressing the issues of the employees is essential to build transparency and thus promoting ethical conduct. If some employee is facing genuine issues then addressing them calmly will give them the confidence and trust to discuss it and prevent unethical behavior.
Communicating the ethical code of conduct from the very beginning
This helps set expectations early on which can prevent behavioral lapses later. Preferably, the employees should be educated about the code of conduct during the hiring process so they know what is expected of them.
Refraining from favoritism in the workplace