Ethics and Protocol in the Workplace
As 21st century companies face more stringent governmental and societal expectations with regard to ethics, many are developing ethical codes of conduct for the workplace. Company leaders set the tone for ethics in any organization, but they also establish expectations for employees and workplace conduct to require all employees to participate in ethical decision making.
Cornelius von Baeyer is a European management consultant who specializes in workplace ethics. In his 1999 “What’s Workplace Ethics” article, he explains that organizational ethics sit between the law and religion. His point is that established legal principles formalize expectations while religion represents personal appreciation for virtue. Part of von Baeyer’s job is to help managers and employees in organizations understand the common ethical dilemmas they face and, through discussion, help them consistently respond to these dilemmas with ethical principles.
Most medium- to large-sized companies have ethical codes of conducts to guide employees in ethical decision making. Ethical codes are grounded in an organization’s guiding values, and a code of conduct specifies behaviors that are either expected or prohibited, explains von Baeyer, who also helps businesses develop effective codes. Company conduct codes should extend beyond legal precedent to guide employees in making appropriate business decisions in lieu of assistance from management.
Ethics and workplace protocol require ongoing training, notes Business Training Media President Myron Curry in his article “Ethics in the Workplace.” Curry and his company believe that ethical codes are not enough to deter unethical behavior. He suggests that companies consistently review ethical decisions with employees and provide ongoing training for workers. While routine ethics training comes with a cost, Curry is quick to point out that the expenses that can occur without well-trained employees are often much more expensive and can include “devastating lawsuits, negative publicity, wasted time, loss of money, and low employee morale.”