Ethics in the workplace
Doing the right thing never goes out of style. In fact, the use of honour codes, as a means to protect and strengthen business practices, dates back to the 13th century with the establishment of the “Honorable Merchant” tradition. The guiding principles of this code, many of which are still applicable today, existed to prepare merchants to conduct business with other international parties.

While this tradition is just one example of a workplace honour code, a number of today’s businesses and business schools are aiming to cultivate honourable leaders by establishing their own guidelines, codes and oaths. It makes sense, too. Research has shown that company culture is the strongest predictor of ethical workplace conduct. This is, in part, because a positive workplace culture equates to superior value creation. However, this statement is further supported when you consider that the top 100 most ethical publicly traded companies outperformed the overall stock market by almost 300 percent. That’s quite a leap.

This e-newsletter will provide a four-step process to establishing honourable practices companywide. After all, cultivating an honourable and ethical workplace culture is good for you, good for business and good for your bottom line. Keep reading to find out more.

A four-step guide to cultivating an ethical workplace
Simply drafting a code of honour and expecting everyone in the organization to abide is about as likely as winning the lottery. To truly bring about cultural change, hard work, commitment and perseverance are required. Here are four steps to creating a meaningful environment everyone can get on board with:

  • Step one—Hold vision sessions: Begin by first determining how a meaningful environment looks and feels to your organization. Hold vision sessions with those who know it best—management and other leaders within the company. Use these sessions to gauge staff trust levels, discuss how to empower employees and come up with ideas to encourage them to do the right thing.
  • Step two—Lay the foundation: You have your vision—now build it! The four building blocks to creating a meaningful workplace culture are compliance, fairness, trust and ethical working self-concept. Be sure the entire organization is on board, your policies and practices are fair and just, you cultivate a culture where employees rest assured their team acts with the best ethical intentions and that everyone lives the company values. Remember, as with all foundations, if one area is weak, the rest will likely begin to crumble.
  • Step three—Create your code of ethics: Your honour code should clearly address your company’s values, ethical expectations and how to conduct business within your organization. Be sure to outline who administers the code, where employees can direct questions to and what the consequences are if it is violated.
  • Step four—Live it: Ensure everyone lives by the honour code with four easy steps: teach, enforce, advocate and model. It is everyone’s duty to impart the organization’s values on one another. Employee training, reviews, mentoring sessions and even disciplinary meetings all provide teachable moments. Once it is taught, enforce it not only with consequences but with praise, too. Does someone at your organization continually exhibit behaviour in line with your code? Present them with a framed certificate or plaque publicly at a team meeting or assembly. Be sure to advocate your values by imprinting them on banners, table tents and floor stickers to keep them top of mind. And of course, make sure your leadership team models good behaviour. It’s hard to get everyone on board if management does not exhibit utmost ethical behaviour at all times.

Cultivate a culture where honour, ethics and respect for teammates, customers and vendors are a top priority. It’s the right thing to do, and it can ultimately improve your business and increase your bottom line. For more information on ethics in the workplace, check out our Blue Paper.

Changes in Medieval Commerce and Production.Dallas Baptist University, n.d. Web. Retrieved 28 Oct. 2014.

Ryssdal, Kai. “An Oath for MBAs to Be Better Leaders.” Market Place. N.p., 08 June 2010. Web. Retrieved 15 Nov. 2014.

Honorable Merchants.” 4imprint Learning Center. N.p., 19 Jan. 2015. Web. Retrieved 28 Jan. 2015.

Josephson, Michael. “Creating an Ethical Workplace Culture: Hire for Character, Train for Skills.” Business Ethics and Leadership. Josephson Institute, 16 Nov. 2010. Web. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2014.

Olson, Steven D. “Shaping an Ethical Workplace Culture.” (n.d.): n. pag. SHRM Foundation, 2013. Web. Retrieved 13 Nov. 2014.

Code of Honor | Leading with High Integrity.” (n.d.): n. pag. Owens & Minor. Web. Retrieved 17 Dec. 2014.

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