Your company’s reputation rests on the way that it’s perceived by others. Even a solid brand can be tarnished when a company engages in legal battles due to a breach of ethics. An entire new generation of consumers and entrepreneurs views business ethics in an important new framework, and avoiding such legal troubles is one of the foundations of company success in the modern world as we move forward into the new century. So, how can your company avoid ethics problems?
A code of conduct is key
Your employees need to know what is expected of them in the workplace and what behavior they can and cannot engage in. A written code of conduct provides baseline of behavior that everyone can refer to when needed. It’s also crucial to detail the consequences for not abiding by these rules of behavior and setting out a procedure for re-education where required.
Commonly, such a code covers the following areas:
- Discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace,
- Expected behavior online in social media when representing the company to others,
- Libel and slander,
- The core values of the organization,
- Dealing with conflicts of interest appropriately,
- The ethics of doing business with questionable entities, such as businesses that engage in environmentally destructive behavior.
All of this adds up to a positive business culture that operates with integrity. Even though it is not possible to cover every situation, the code of conduct acts as an operating philosophy and provides guidance.
Business leaders need to be role models
Have you ever heard the saying: “This fish rots from the head down”? When applied to business, this means that the way that leaders behave will strongly influence the behavior of employees. If staff see that their managers and business leaders are acting up and doing the wrong things, they are more likely to take a casual approach to behavior in the workplace too.
In this context, business leaders need to be role models for their employees and stakeholders. They need to adhere strictly to the code of conduct and model exactly the behavior that they want their business to be associated with.
Be strong on compliance. It’s important to enforce the code of conduct equally for everyone in the company, including other business leaders. If your employees see you letting parts of the code go because it’s simply easier, they will become complacent.
Honest communication works
The way that a company guides employees and behaves is an ongoing evolutionary process. It is always a work in progress and for this reason input needs to be gathered from all sides. Open, transparent, and honest communication is the key to developing a positive business culture. Open door policies work as a method of improving communication between staff members and business leaders and change and adaptability should be encouraged.
A strong foundation is the key to avoiding ethics breaches
The way that a business operates, treats its employees and stakeholders, and is perceived by the public at large is based on a variety of ethical considerations. Asking the right questions, being honest, communicating regularly, encouraging a positive business culture, developing a code of conduct, and role-modelling expected behavior provides a strong foundation for avoiding ethics legal battles.