A White Lie a Day …

A White Lie a Day …

In an ideal world workplace ethics guide employees and organisations and provide a reference point for identifying if an individual has acted unethically.  In the main we like to feel that individuals at all levels of the organisation behave and manage in an ethical manner and that we ourselves do so as well.  Many professions require us to work to a Code of Practice and it is common for organisations to identify a set of values to guide how employees work together and engage with customers or society.

It’s shocking though that recent research by the Chartered Management Institute – Managers and the Moral Maze: September 2013 – a survey into ethics in the workplace reveals some surprising findings:

  • Two-thirds of UK managers want to be seen as ethical but over 80 per cent of workers don’t think their manager sets a good moral example.
  • 35% of managers confess to telling a white lie every day in the name of career progression.
  • Only 17% of employees are aware of their organisational values.

When it comes down to it, to err is human and we all slip up occasionally and do something that might be seen as unethical, perhaps because we are trying to resolve something quickly and don’t think it though, we don’t have all the information needed to make the right decision or we don’t think about the possible impact of our actions.  Often it’s not until later that we realise we perhaps didn’t act as ethically as we might but is there a benefit for businesses in promoting ethics?  What do business ethics add to the bottom line?

First and foremost it can be argued that business ethics is a PR mechanism; having a reputation as an ethical employer or supplier can be a marketing pillar when it comes to being an employer of choice or in trying to attract customers to whom ethical practices are a driver for the choices they make.

Ethical behaviour cascaded from the top of the organisation can be one of a number of things that impact on the measure of employee engagement; employees who feel they are being treated fairly will likely be more engaged with the organisation and experience greater motivation.

It could be argued in both cases – external and internal to the business – that ethics should be built naturally into the way of going about our business; a way of being, rather than something that we need to proceduralise, but on the other side of the table there are those who struggle to see the added value and whose key focus is on turnover and profit.

Unfortunately the value of ethics is often not realised and is difficult to quantify until something goes wrong and there is damage done to the bottom line and business reputation, but if we work towards a culture of instilling ethics as a way of being, there should be less opportunity for individuals to err.

How does your organisation address ethics?



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