Actions Contributing Most to Ethical Behavior and Compliance Identified
Dec. 18, 2006 -- Three ethics-related actions by management and coworkers have the greatest impact on employee ethics and compliance—an influence more profound than formal ethics programs and organized activities.
Setting a good example;
Keeping promises and commitments and
Supporting others in adhering to ethics standards.
These findings come from new research released by the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) and Working Values Ltd. The report, "Critical Elements of an Organizational Ethical Culture," results from collaboration between the ERC and Working Values. The report builds on the ERC's 2005 National Business Ethics Survey (NBES), which measured ethical culture by asking employees if management and coworkers demonstrated various "ethics-related actions" (ERAs) in the workplace.
"These findings tell us that actions speak louder than words. To create a positive ethical culture, management needs to make sure that employees see their superiors and peers demonstrating ethical behavior in the work they do and decisions they make every day," said Patricia J. Harned, Ph.D., president of the Ethics Resource Center.
The new analysis also finds that ethics training is more useful in helping junior employees feel prepared to handle misconduct than it is for senior employees, indicating that training needs to be tailored to different employee levels. Upper management may need advice about how to demonstrate its commitment through action, while junior employees need instruction about how to handle specific ethics challenges.
Working Values asked the ERC to conduct this research to help organizations better target training to promote a culture committed to ethical conduct in the workplace. "The findings demonstrate that companies should seriously consider dedicating more resources to encourage leadership to set a good example, establish organizational trustworthiness, and help employees to make ethical decisions, rather than directing all their efforts to communicate about the specifics of a formal program," said David Gebler, president of Working Values.
"Critical Elements of an Organizational Ethical Culture" is available for free download on the ERC and Working Values web sites. The Ethics Resource Center (ERC) is a private, non-profit organization devoted to independent research and the advancement of high ethical standards and practices in public and private institutions.
Working Values Ltd., a SmartPros company, is a developer of integrated values-based corporate responsibility and ethics awareness and compliance learning programs.