In life and in business, there are situations that challenge, question, and test an individual's set of personal and professional ethics. Ethics is a crucial element to sustain a society as well as an organization. This paper will discuss several issues regarding the practice of ethics and the practice of leadership within organizations. The kind of leadership an organization maintains and models for employees plays a significant role in the practice of ethical conduct within the organization as well as ethical conduct during business practices with parties outside of the organization, including suppliers and consumers. As part of this discussion, the paper identifies prominent issues regarding leadership ethics in organizations, factors that directly contribute to the practice or lack of ethics on the individual and organizational levels. With analysis and references to relevant texts, the paper proposes an ethical code for a fictitious company such that there is an abundance of ethical behavior and ethical leadership within the organization.
The fictitious company for which this paper will define and explore a code of workplace or organizational ethics will be a media production company. Media is a booming industry in the 21st century with room for creative vision and technical acuity. This company is approximately a decade old, so it is very contemporary and modern. The purpose of an ethical code at this media company is to protect the organization and protect the organization's consumer base. Whether or not each individual employee is ethical outside of the workplace is partially irrelevant. While the author of this paper would implement a code of ethics for the sake of good will, some leaders of organizations do not feel the same way. That does not mean the necessity for an organizational code of ethics is lost upon them, as a lack of ethics causes the organization to lose money, whether there is a high volume of employee turnover, whether the employees are stealing from the company, or whether news of an ethical scandal hits the press and consequently the consumer base reduces.
The core values of my organization's ethical code are communication, honesty, equity, clarity, and simplicity. Training and education regarding the code would be for all employees, top to bottom because another one of the most important values of my ethical code is leading by example. If the CFO and the COO are not required to attend ethical trainings for middle management or entry level employees, that sends a message that the rules do not apply to everyone. This is a dangerous sentiment that will fester and turn into bad news for the organization one way or another, sooner or later. Furthermore, as my fake company is a media company, there will be a variety of trainings that approach education from a modern and mediated approach, including some trainings with no technology, so that employees must talk to each other. The mission statement of my fake media organization is: master the constant creation and distribution of entertaining and provocative media. As the leader of this fake company, I feel it is most important and most effective when things are kept simple. This is the primary guiding principle of my company and its code of ethics.
Why consider ethics in the workplace at all? Whatever the personal points-of-view for any employee, ethics in the workplace should be valued and demonstrated. At the end of the day, no matter the ethical relativism of each person, lack of ethics in the workplaces costs the company money. The vast majority of people work because they want or need money. Lack of ethical practice in the workplace can lead to theft, litigation, and fraud. The costs to a company due to these results are grand. The employees will experience cut backs of various sorts from health care benefits, salary, and may suffer lay offs. Thus, ethics practiced in the workplace keep everyone employed and keep the company in business generating constant revenue. We do not exist within a perfect reality; there will be perplexing and difficult ethical situations that every individual faces over a lifetime and for which there are equally as difficult choices to be made. Attempts to maintain ethical leadership and ethical behavior in organizations and in life make a difference and ultimately should be the standard and/or tradition.
Leaders adopting such an approach can influence others to direct their actions toward the attainment of a clearly understood and well communicated purpose. A shared vision therefore, results in ethical behaviour guided by purpose- directed leadership. (Dorasamy, Enhancing ethical culture, 2009)
Key issues regarding ethical leadership and behavior can be loosely classified into the following categories: modeling ethics; giving employees voice; considering the impact of decisions; promoting community involvement; and responsible sourcing. In order for any organization to function, employees from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom must practice at least a nominal level of ethics. If a meeting for designers or programmers is scheduled, it should be held at the time and place listed. Everyone who is supposed to attend should. This simple act of keeping an internal appointment is a practice of honesty, discipline, and commitment, all of which are elements of ethics. There is an appeal of the study of ethical leadership from a business standpoint and a personal perspective.
Based on each individual organizational infrastructure, it is up to the executive or governing bodies to model leadership and ethics for the other employees. Modeling ethics provides examples to employees of how they should behave within the organization and how they should behave to outsiders as representatives of the organization. This again, is key to the guiding principles and mission statement of my company. Organizational leadership models of ethical leadership and ethical business practice get tested within the organization as employees mimic the behaviors modeled for them by executives, management, etc. Organizations can then see the effects of their models and modify if necessary. This is where giving employees a voice comes into play. How much an organization listens to the employees and incorporates their feedback is really up to the leader of the organization.
Regular discussions of ethical issues should be held as well. This will develop the understanding of good ethics and make sure the right decisions are being made from reason and will, not only because it is expected. These discussions will attend to issues as they come up. Addressing issues sooner than later will prevent small issues from becoming large issues. An open door policy should also be instated. This policy will help the organization as a whole stay on the same page. If issues or questions arise they can be solved rather than create underlining issues that end up ignoring the company's ethical code. If all of these steps are taken to introduce a company's ethical program, it is hard to imagine anything except ethical practice. To lock in long-term success, the last recommendation must also be enforced. Periodic ethical reviews for the whole company will keep everyone on track. Without these reviews, it is possible for a part of the company or the company as a whole to lose sight of the ethical expectations. (Waggoner, Ethics & Leadership, 2010)
There are plenty of leaders who do not care to hear or know what their employees have to say about the quality of the organizational experience. There is a growing trend in the 21st century for both large corporations and small firms or private organizations to regard the feedback of employees and consumers with great value and appreciation. These companies see success in customer loyalty, low turn over rates, financial success, longevity, and more. Thus it is the prerogative of the leader of any organization as to how much he/she considers ethics in their leadership style and business practice.
Organizations must consider the consequences of their actions, ethical or not, for the organization and for whatever parties are directly affected by the action. There is a law within one of the tribes of indigenous peoples of the United States, the great Iroquois Nation that says that for every decision that is made, one should consider what the consequences would be for seven generations. It is unlikely that every organization will heed such a law, yet the practicality in planning ahead, considering choices for several iterations after the action is taken, and seeing the situation from various perspectives behooves any organization and any individual. If these are the kinds of ethical leadership considerations modeled within an organization, such behaviors will manifest on the individual level as well.
Consider the presence of ethics at the Seventh Generation, Inc., an organization that specializes in cleaning products that took its name from the Iroquois Nation law of the same title. Just as the behaviors modeled in the home as a child are recreated and modeled as an adult, the ethics and leadership provided by the top level of management of the organization will be repeated within the organization on the individual and departmental level. There is…