Ethical values act as the moral compass by which we lead our lives and use to make decisions; choosing to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing. However, in the workplace unethical behavior can be common, and still in 2020 continues to occur, time and time again. From individual actions to industry-wide issues, it’s commonplace for many employers to make the mistake of making compromising and unfair decisions.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way, any employer can take a stand against inequalities in the workplace, and can take steps to ensure that they run their company in a way that’s both fair and ethical, and with equality at the forefront of every decision. Of course, knowing how to do that as someone who may be new to acting as an employer can sometimes seem like a minefield – after all, there’s a lot that needs to be taken into account.
In the guide below, we discuss the key red flags to look out for, along with a number of useful practical tips and ideas that will allow any employer to act in a fair and ethical way from day one. By preventing ethical breaches and misconduct, employers can ensure that the way staff are treated is ethically right, and that no team member feels singled out in any way, for any reason.
The question is: what do employers need to do to ensure that workplaces become fairer and more ethical environments? Read on for everything you should know about creating more equal workplaces.
Set clear guidelines on workplace behavior
The ethical climate in organizations determines what the social norms and values linked to the right behavior are, and how ethics should be a key factor in guiding this behavior. By taking the time to identify the already existing ethical climate within a company, it becomes easier to then improve this climate. The key to doing so is simple; by setting clear guidelines on workplace behavior and what is and is not acceptable is the key here.
For example, creating a behavior code of conduct for team members that outlines a variety of behaviors that are not acceptable, this puts in motion the need for a change of climate in regards to the normal workplace behavior that occurs. If it’s never made clear to team members that certain behaviors won’t be tolerated, nothing will change. Be clear on what isn’t acceptable but do so in a calm and controlled way.
Develop and embed codes of conduct
Every organization requires a code of ethics that’s credible, supported by key board members of the company, and is easy to communicate to staff. In order for a code of ethics to be successful, it needs to have strong support behind it, which is why having backing from board members is so vital.
Make sure that all codes of conduct are clearly displayed and visible at all times, as this will help to ensure that these codes remain at the forefront of everyone’s minds. It’s easy to forget a code of conduct when you are not reminded of it every day, which is why visibility is key here.
Ensure fairness and integrity in regards to how team members are treated
When a workforce is treated unfairly with favoritism clearly visible, it causes problems between team members, which can impact on workplace productivity and efficiency, as well as on employee mental health and general wellbeing. It’s for this reason that it is vital workforces are treated with fairness, integrity and the sensitivity that is needed; as a result team members will be more likely to respond with further commitment and higher levels of productivity, simply because they feel equally valued.
In regards to ensuring fairness and integrity, one example area that it is key to be clear about from the start is the rules and regulations in place for time-off requests. There are lots of tips for handling time off requests that discuss the importance of creating an ethical and fair code in relation to how time off requests should be handled by both team members and employers. The issue can often be with time off requests that if too many team members request time off at one point, it’s impossible to grant everyone’s request. One of the best ways to instill a fair approach here is to operate on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, so whoever gets their request in first gets their time off approved first.
Take steps to mitigate unethical behavior
Often, certain personality factors, along with various psychological attributes, mean that certain team members are more likely to behave in unethical ways, than others. To ensure that this does not become an issue and that ethical practices remain, it’s vital to understand different personality traits and associated behaviors, and find ways in which measures can be used to prevent certain team members from acting in inappropriate ways while at work. Always make sure to set clearly defined boundaries about what is and what is not acceptable workplace behavior, and stand firm on these. If a boundary is broken, action must be taken, otherwise it will appear as if the regulations in place are meaningless, which can then affect the integrity of how the company is run.
Implement reward systems
Rewards are a key factor in attracting and retaining high-quality team members; when a team member is rewarded for their hard work, it shows that they are valued, which in turn tends to cause team members to work harder and more productively. Ensure that there is a fair reward system in place that makes sure to reward any team member who has done something exceptional or tried extremely hard.
However, it’s important not to make the mistake of putting too much pressure on team members to meet goals in order to receive rewards. This is because this kind of behavior can lead to unethical practices by team members. A small amount of pressure can help to encourage employees to work harder and meet goals, however too much pressure and unethical practices begin to appear.
Take steps to encourage team members to always be accountable, regardless of what has occurred. For instance, say two team members have got in a fight, be clear that you expect whoever started it to take accountability for that factor. Or, say a project deadline has been missed due to a team member making an error, ask the team member responsible to come forward. What’s important is that when someone does take accountability for something, that they are praised for taking that step and doing so.
As a leader, it’s vital that employers always lead by example and are also accountable for their own behavior. If an employer makes a mistake, instead of quietly clearing it up, it’s important that they openly take accountability for it, and that their team members see this. Employers that lead by example tend to have far more trust from their team members, which is why it’s so vital that employers know how to lead effectively by example.
In today’s climate, being a fair and ethical employer is vital. There are many steps that employers can take – beyond establishing a code of ethics – that can help to embed the mindset of fairness, equality and ethics into a company’s very structures. The key to success here is constant and consistent communication, particularly from higher levels of the company, such as board members, for instance.