Bad behavior can arise in a work environment in so many ways. Issues like workplace discrimination – gender, race, sexual orientation – may seem obvious to avoid, but employees often act or speak before they think. Sexual harassment or workplace harassment of any kind is another example of misconduct. Even potentially awkward or uncomfortable discussions can feel like harassment to some.
Workplace ethics issues such as these are often governed by regulatory and compliance laws that companies must follow. These topics need to be addressed proactively to emphasize that such behavior will not be tolerated. Left unaddressed, unethical behavior can become a company culture, not only affecting morale and productivity but potentially exploding into regulatory and legal consequences for the organization.
Employees need business ethics training to gain a clear understanding of appropriate behavior and to recognize what might be considered offensive or discriminatory. Effective compliance training reaches beyond the letter of a law and tackles practical, everyday pitfalls in today’s modern workplace.
Defining Ethics in Business
Ethics in the workplace encompasses employee attitudes and the way individuals conduct themselves, as well as the organization’s stated values and expectations of its workforce. Ethical behavior not only applies to individual employees. It is also how the organization itself sets standards of ethical conduct and exemplifies it from the top down and from within the company extending externally to customers, vendors and the community.
Integrity and honesty, fairness and respect, discipline and accountability – these are common values that ethical companies embrace as they do business. Ethical decision-making by business leaders and managers takes into account both the individual’s best interest as well as the interests of others impacted.
A strong stance on workplace ethics is pivotal to the success – or failure – of an organization. Fair, appropriate and ethical behavior can stimulate positive employee attitudes that help grow the organization, just as unethical behaviors can tear teams apart and put the organization in peril.
By deploying a robust business ethics training program, organizations can address morality as it relates to employment law and practices – protecting the organization’s future ethical and legal standing.
Safe and Ethical Use of Technology
Beyond the traditional business code of conduct, there are more ethical risks than ever before in today’s workplace – and new areas of concern continually emerging.
For example, the prolific presence of technology platforms and internet connectivity has made technology etiquette crucially important. Clear guidelines and policies are imperative, and they must be communicated to employees so everyone understands acceptable use when it comes to Internet, email and telephone in the workplace.
Employees also need to be instructed on how to avoid potentially dangerous malware and other cybersecurity threats. Everyday behaviors and decisions – something as seemingly small and harmless as responding to what appears to be a “safe” email – can result in harm to the organization.
Benefits of Workplace Ethics Training
An effective workplace ethics training program enables organizations to communicate to employees clearly, helping them understand what is right and wrong in the workplace. It keeps them up to date on the latest regulatory requirements at the federal, state and international levels and builds awareness of the potential risks of actions that may on the surface seem inconsequential. Ethics training gives them a deeper understanding of the issues and their role in safeguarding themselves and the organization.
Additionally, business ethics training emphasizes the consequences of making the wrong decisions at work. Those consequences can be devastating, damaging the organization’s reputation and good standing with vendors and customers. Likewise, unethical conduct may occur on a smaller and more individual scale, requiring disciplinary action.
Workplace ethics training has innumerable benefits, enabling employees to:
- Cultivate a safe and healthy work environment
- Protect information technology resources
- Avoid conflicts of interest
- Establish appropriate relationships among colleagues
- Interact with customers and suppliers effectively and ethically
- Play fairly with competitors
Compliance and regulatory training drives awareness of ethical and safe business practices, ensuring your employees are utilizing best practices and representing your organization in alignment with your corporate values and standards of conduct.
Ethics Training is the Right Thing to Do
Being proactive in establishing clear ethics policies and values helps organizations avoid the pitfalls, embarrassment and reputational harm that can come from unethical conduct. A strong business ethics training program defines your company’s moral code and guides the behavior of employees with respect to what is right and wrong in their conduct and helps leaders become better decision makers.
As Captain America tells us: “Compromise where you can, where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, you move.’”
This advice from Marvel Studios’ superhero epitomizes his character: forever committed to ethics and morality. He stands up for what is right no matter the cost. He is driven and defined by his own personal values and ethics. In the real world, we can embody a high standard of ethics as individuals, as well as in our work environments. It is the responsibility of business leaders to define ethical practices and model it within their organizations.
Business Ethics Training from GLS
Through numerous award-winning training programs offered by Global Learning Systems, companies can effectively invest in their human capital to protect both their employees and their organization. Ethics and compliance training is at the heart of what we do. Our comprehensive compliance training library covers topics from business ethics, HIPAA and PCI-DSS to HR content such as diversity & inclusion and harassment prevention.
Remember: “Compromise where you can, and where you can’t, don’t.” Ethics in the workplace is an area where you cannot compromise.