image of classroom participants It’s never wise to assume people “know” things and this is especially true when it comes to workplace ethics and values. What’s considered normal for some people, isn’t for others. Further, gray areas and undefined situations can lead to workplace ethics dilemmas that demand legal redress or mediation. Thus, it’s necessary to have a clear and effective workplace ethics training program in place to define the ethical expectations of your organization.

Why Is Workplace Ethics Training So Important?

Understanding and implementing sound workplace ethics isn’t just about moral behavior and doing the right thing. It has a direct impact on employee performance and accountability. Companies that allow or even encourage unethical practices experience lower employee productivity and loyalty as well as a diminished reputation and profitability.

People want to experience ethical, moral behavior in the workplace. Employees whose ethics and values oppose those of the company endure greater stress which leads to an increase in absenteeism and a decrease in productivity and job satisfaction. This, in turn, affects the bottom line of the business. These employees are also more likely to flee the company to find an organization with corresponding values.

Workplace ethics and values also reflect the organization’s reputation and success. According to one study80% of respondents said that a company’s ethical practices had a direct effect upon whether they bought its goods and services. The takeaway: The general public would rather buy goods from a company it perceives as moral than one that is not.

Workplace Ethics Explained

Workplace ethics are organizational standards of appropriate and acceptable behavior.  These standards are used to make decisions and judge conduct on the job. True ethical conduct means knowing what’s right and wrong and choosing to do the right thing. It’s easy in the workplace to be confused about right and wrong, especially in a world of many grays. For clarity, it’s important for your organization to:

  1. Establish codes and policies for what’s acceptable behavior and practices,
  2. Establish what happens if those policies are violated, and
  3. Follow through on repercussions should any violations occur.

Workplace Ethics Training Tips

A Code of Ethics is a Must

Take time to sit down with all stakeholders, particularly human resources personnel and workplace ethics experts, and create a Code of Ethics for your organization. Run these codes and policies by the organization’s attorney and make sure they’re sound. Keep them simple and use basic language. If the language is too pedantic, it’s easy for employees to misunderstand and misinterpret what’s being said. Pedantic, obscure language also allows misconduct to “slip in around the edges.”

All Employees Must Observe the Code of Ethics

Workplace ethics training isn’t just for the managers and supervisors, nor is it only for lower-level employees. It must be for every employee in the company, from the top executives to the folks in the mail room. No one can be exempt. If there are “exemptions,” it sends the very unethical message that all employees aren’t held to the same standard. It also creates an opportunity for misconduct.

Have an Orientation in Workplace Ethics Training

Every organization should have an orientation in workplace ethics for all employees, particularly those that are new to the organization. This training must thoroughly cover the ethics and values espoused by the company. Make sure the training is given importance and doesn’t become a simple box to check. Follow-up training and an annual refresher is also recommended. It’s helpful to have scenarios and role-playing as well.

Workplace Ethics Dilemmas: Vignettes and Role-Playing

A necessary component of workplace ethics training is allowing participants to work through hypothetical situations that are as close to reality as possible. These vignettes can’t be odd situations dissociated from what really happens in the work environment. Credible actors and real-life scenarios are necessary. Participants should discuss the scenarios, the available choices and the consequences and outcomes given the various choices.

Understand that “They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know”

You can’t hold people accountable for information they don’t know. The problem with new employees is that, oftentimes, they simply do not know and, thus, don’t know enough to ask for help. This is when it’s important to teach proper workplace ethics and values and the consequences of misconduct. For example, if your organization doesn’t permit managers directly supervising relatives, this must be communicated, not assumed.

Thorough Training in Anti-Discriminatory Practices, Diversity Awareness and Sexual Harassment

These are extremely pertinent issues that must be thoroughly trained and handled properly. They also demand a clear, in-depth knowledge of the positions held by the state and federal government. Failing to adequately train your staff or neglecting to follow through on laws and policies can lead to dismissal of the instigator, exodus of the wrongfully treated employee and possible litigation.

Establish a Means for Employees to Report a Violation or Get Help

Set up a hotline for employees to seek help or to report a violation they’ve seen or experienced. Consider offering online forms in order for workers to submit initial requests or violations with the opportunity for further online, telephone or face-to-face contact. Have a means of following up in the event of an investigation.

Ensure Employees Have Real Recourse In Workplace Ethics Dilemmas

There’s no doubt that there will be ethical dilemmas and misconduct in your workplace. People are different and come with a variety of perspectives, not all of them being compatible. Even with the best ethics training, workers will clash in terms of their workplace ethics and values. Others will violate the codes. You must ensure that your organization provides a means of recourse, such as mediation, a grievance committee or a diversity office. Be sure to offer a way for employees who feel slighted or handled wrongly to seek fair, unbiased redress that provides effective outcomes.

Codes Must Be Enforceable

Anything that ends up in the Code of Ethics must be enforceable, at least via evaluation, action plan or letter of reprimand and, at most, via dismissal or legal redress. If the codes have no punitive aspect nor are they enforced, employees won’t take them seriously and misconduct will ensue.

Implementing Workplace Ethics Training & Policies

Make sure workplace ethics and values are knit intricately into the foundation of your organization by creating a Code of Ethics and holding workplace ethics training. Ensure that everyone is included, from the rank-and-file worker to the executive in the corner office. Workplace ethics affect employee productivity, absenteeism and turnover as well as the profitability and success of your organization. Thus, supporting your company with sound workplace ethics is a wise decision that will bear long-term success.

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To learn more about the benefits of employee development, contact Edge Training at 800-305-2025.