Your ethics at work are just as important as your ethics in your personal life. Your ethics are the guidelines of right and wrong defined by the culture or group you live in, whereas your morals are more like a personal code of conduct. The combination of ethics and morals are important because they guide not only your behavior but also the behavior of your co-workers, customers and competitors.
Why Do We Need Ethics at Work?
In the course of your workday, you interact with people from different departments and divisions. You also interact with people from different backgrounds and different generations. Ethics form a framework for your interactions. At the most fundamental level, they give everyone the rules for conducting business and interacting with others. Without shared ethics, it would be necessary to negotiate a shared set of behavioral assumptions with each individual. This would be time-consuming, to say the least.
Appreciating the ethics of others is not the same as remembering that one coworker shakes hands and another prefers not to. Ethics are a more serious, and they dictate whether it is right or wrong to steal, cheat or admit to a mistake. Without ethics at work, creating a community and achieving common goals would be infinitely more difficult.
What Managers Need to Know about Ethics
It is important for managers to realize that not all people share the same ethical background. For a department, task force or company to function efficiently, it is essential that everyone understands the ground rules. In your online MBA program at Florida International University, you will take courses that cover ethics in the workplace and prepare you to create and implement codes of conduct.
Spelling Out the Code of Conduct
Rather than assuming everyone is on the same page — or even that everyone will be sensitive to the nuances of a company’s ethical standards — many organizations rely on codes of conduct. These documents are part of every new employee’s onboarding. The codes spells out appropriate behavior, and employees usually sign a document to indicate their understanding and agreement.
Typically a code of conduct will also spell out the sorts of activities that are grounds for dismissal. These can include anything from prohibitions against industrial espionage to leaks of sensitive information. Often, relationships with competitors need clarification. The types of statements an individual can make on behalf of the company, as well as how social media applies to the company, are often part of this document.
As a manager, it does not hurt to reiterate any relevant ethics that you require from your employees. Some of these ethics can relate to timeliness, professionalism and quality of work documents, since each of these has to do with the way your department presents itself to the rest of the company.
When Things Go Wrong
It is rare that you will have an employee who embezzles or forges documents. This is due in part to ethical expectations and systems of checks and balances. As a manager, it is more likely that you will need to handle matters on a smaller — but still important — scale.
The coursework in your online MBA program will be beneficial in these situations. You will need to apply what you have learned and work with the individuals involved in a number of ways.
- You will need to meet with each individually. Assuring the employee that you will listen without judgment and will not hold anything against that employee is important.
- You may need to meet with senior managers or human resources for advice. Maintaining any confidentiality you have promised your employees is also important.
- You will need to devise a plan that addresses the issues of both parties, resolves the issue and makes it possible for those involved to move forward and work with each other in the future.
- You will need to meet with the employees involved, present your plan, listen to their feedback, adjust as necessary and follow through on any support you have pledged.
- You will need to monitor the situation, meeting briefly with concerned parties, to be certain the plan and any agreement is working as anticipated.
Your role as manager is to model your own ethics at work for those who report to you.
Learn more about the FIU online MBA program.
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