Sam, HR has reported that you made sexual remarks to one of your female co-workers yesterday at the company fitness center. I recommend you rethink what you said to her. If you were intentional in harassing her, understand that that behavior will not be tolerated in this company. How do you see this situation, Sam?
What do you see as ethical behavior? If you ask ten different people this question you will get ten different answers.
Here are a few:
“Ethics has to do with what my feelings tell me is right or wrong.”
“Ethics has to do with my religion.”
‘Ethics is the standards of behavior our society accepts.”
In his book Ethicability: (n) How to decide what’s right and find the courage to do it Roger Steare defines ethics quite simply: Our ethical values are determined by the answers each individual gives to the following questions:
What are the Rules?
Am I acting with Integrity? Am I living according to a shared set of principles?
Who is this shared set Good for? Who does it harm?
Who could it Harm?
What is the Truth?
There are two basic aspects of ethics – trust and values.
I once led an initiative to create a customer service program. The program was designed around the values of respect and courteousness to colleagues as well as to customers. A committee of employees selected from every area of the organization dedicated months to creating the program.
One criterion of the program became “keep the grounds and buildings clean.” A Vice President reported at Executive Council, “I had to pick up the paper from the parking lot because I knew Betsy might be watching.” This statement shows that although every person may not have had ownership to the program, they were aware and their behavior had been modified.
The story about Sam is an example of the value “behave with respect for others.” As a leader of the organization, I was committed to upholding the value of respect, and took action to insure that others understood its importance. Sam was unimpressed with the company’s ethics and his inappropriate behavior continued. As a result of this behavior, he was “given the opportunity to succeed someplace else.”
How do you establish trust? Employees want to know that they can trust their leaders and their co-workers. Similarly leaders must know they can trust their employees and co-workers. An organizational climate of trust leads to employee loyalty and high productivity.
“Class, this is Dr. Smith. She is the reason you are losing your art room space.” The department head who made that introduction laughed as if I knew he was joking. But fifty women, all over the age of fifty, looked at me with disdain. The class was a non-credit art class with a stellar reputation in the community and was being moved to a new art studio, designed specifically for this class – but it was not on campus.
When we returned to his office, I said. “Don’t you ever set me up like that again.” I made it clear that passive aggressive behavior like his joke was not the way to build my trust.
Defining and agreeing upon clear values and trust are two essential elements of organizational ethics. Ethics, the shared set of principles, is an essential element of extraordinary leadership.
What are the ethics of your business or organization? Does everyone there know the ethical values and act upon them? If you are ready to clarify your organizational ethics and to establish meaningful values and trust please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org