CultureHuman Resources

Essential Guidelines to Manage Ethics in the Workplace

3 Mins read
  • A solid ethics plan is crucial for any entrepreneur trying to run an ethical business.

Ethics is a vital element of every workplace. An ethical culture ensures that your business operates appropriately – and it helps attract top talent to your office. In fact, surveys indicate that 94% of workers consider it “important” or “critical” that they work for an ethical company!

Do intend to run an ethical business? Then you need to start with your culture. Your business can create an ethical corporate culture in many ways, from implementing ethics-based employee training to setting up compliance hotlines where employees can report misconduct. However, implementing an ethical culture doesn’t stop there; it is a long process that involves careful management of everyone in your organization. Here’s what you need to know about managing ethics in the workplace.

How to Implement and Manage Ethics

Whether you are starting your business from square one or introducing ethics-based policies to an established company, you’ll need to spend some time nurturing a culture of ethics in your workplace. Remember that this process takes time – but with proper management, you can help make sure that the ethical culture you create sticks.

Be Patient

We’ve already mentioned a few times here that establishing ethics in your business is a process. However, this bears repeating again and again. Building an ethical workplace means creating policies, observing them in practice, revising them, retraining workers, and rinsing and repeating more times than you ever thought you’d need!

It is important to be patient and persistent during this time. Remember that the time you are investing in your organization and your ethical code is valuable and that it will ultimately improve your company’s reputation in your industry, with your workers, and with your customers.

Focus on Behavior

If you want to encourage ethical behavior in your company, you need to focus on exactly that – your employees’ behavior. Your ethics process should be positive, with an emphasis on the things you want your employees to do, rather than those you don’t want them to do.

Emphasizing positive behavior accomplishes two things: it gives your workers clear guidelines and expectations (which is important, since everyone’s ethical code is slightly different) and it helps boost your worker’s morale. This can help your ethical process find an easier foothold within your workforce.

Establish Clear Policies and Procedures

Here’s the reality: some of your employees won’t take to your ethics training as easily as others (this is why patience is so vital). They might simply forget your training out of habit, or it may not be a priority for them. In these cases, it’s important to have clear, established policies – both for practicing ethical behavior and for breaking from the new program.

Make sure you train your employees on the procedures they need to follow to do their jobs ethically. But it’s just as important to make sure they know how to report misconduct that they see, either through an anonymous hotline or through other established company policies. This will help everyone understand your corporate culture, and it will help you find employees who might not mesh with your specific ethical values.

Be Open and Honest

Finally, one of the keys to effectively managing ethics in your workplace is to be honest with your team. Let everyone in on the process of developing an ethical culture and ask for feedback as often as you can. This will make everyone feel like they are part of the development process, which will help your company’s ethics become something everyone values and maintains.

Ethics Roles and Responsibilities

The tips above can help your company effectively usher in a new ethics program… but who is supposed to be ushering it in? The answer is simple: EVERYONE. Ethics is a company-wide issue, and therefore everyone should play a role in making sure that ethics takes root within your organization.

But with that said, there are a few workers who have an extra responsibility to uphold a company’s ethics. These individuals include the following.


Ethics should always start at the top. Therefore, your company’s CEO should model ethics in everything he or she does. By “walking the walk” and leading with ethics, your CEO can help set the tone for every single member of your organization.

Ethics Committee

An ethics committee is a group of employees who oversee developing and supervising a company’s ethics program. It’s best to fill this committee with employees from all departments and levels of your business, and this will ensure that no groups fall through the cracks when it comes to ethics.

Ethics Executive

Your company should have at least one ethics executive – an employee from the senior leadership team who is dedicated to resolving ethical problems within the business. This employee will help deal with ethics on a day-to-day basis and ensure that everyone upholds the company values.

With careful management and the right team, you can easily establish an ethical culture within your organization. The process may not be quick, but it is certainly well worth the effort.

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About author
Giovanni Gallo is the Co-CEO of ComplianceLine, where his team strives to make the world a better workplace with compliance hotline services, sanction, and license monitoring, and workforce eLearning software and services.
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