Every day, managers and employees need to make decisions that have moral and ethical implications. And those decisions impact their companies, company shareholders, and all the other stakeholders in interest. Conducting business in an ethical manner is incumbent upon everyone in an organisation for legal and business reasons. And as a manager, it’s important to understand your ethical obligations so that you can meet your company’s expectations as well as model appropriate behaviour for others.
Ethics is a set of standards for judging right from wrong. At its most basic level, it means acting fairly and honestly in individual as well as group decision making. On a business level, it can refer, for example, to fair and honest competition, acting without deception or misrepresentation, and working within the boundaries of the law.
In the wake of corporate scandals over the past several years, most organisations have written or updated their Codes of Conduct and Ethics Rules. The first thing a manager should do is to read and understand those documents. That means understanding the actual words used in the documents along with the spirit and intent behind the words. The second thing to do is to be sure that your staff also reads and understands the documents and can come to you with any questions.
Decisions can have moral implications
If you act consistently with Codes of Conduct and Ethics Rules, you provide a foundation of trust in your relationships with others. Part of your goal is to show others what it means to make ethical decisions. Another part is to encourage others to come forward if they suspect that someone is not acting ethically. Your organisation will be able to look at that behaviour and stop it before it has broader implications.
As a leader in your organisation, how you behave and communicate is the basis on which others will judge you. If you act ethically and require the same of others, you represent your company well. You also position yourself as someone your employees can respect. There is no better way to attract and retain good employees than respecting those you interact with every day.