Organizational Wellness

How to Foster Workplace Ethics in Your Organization

Feb 20, 2024
Last Updated Feb 20, 2024

Imagine a workplace where integrity is more than a poster on the wall — it's the very foundation of every interaction. 

This only occurs when the whole organization is all-in on operating as an ethical workplace. While HR leaders set the tone for workplace morals every employee has to do their job with integrity for the business to be a principled role model.

But what’s the secret sauce to running an ethical business?

Here’s how you can foster ethics at your workplace, and track the positive impact of doing business this way. 

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How Workplace Ethics Impact an Organization

Workplace ethics — such as respect, integrity, and transparency — create a more positive work environment. They are the moral principles and values that define an organization. 

Ethics and accountability are critical to a productive work environment, according to Harvard Business School. They rpomote trust in the workplace and encourage responsible behavior, which contributes to your organization's culture and success.

Ethical practices determine how employees perceive a company and perform their jobs. For example, when a business operates with transparency and integrity, it creates a culture of trust. That can lead to improved employee engagement and performance, which benefits the entire organization. 

Strong moral leadership can also attract more talent to your organization, especially younger workers. More than a third of Gen Zs and Millennials, for example, have rejected a job or assignment from a company with values that don't align with theirs, according to Deloitte research.

Workplace ethics also influence a corporation's reputation. Client-facing organizations with ethical workplace standards encourage customer engagement and loyalty. Additionally, accountable and responsible organizations command respect and have a positive public reputation, leading to improved business outcomes. 

Developing and Implementing Ethical Policies

How you develop ethical guidelines and non-compliance policies will depend on your organization. You can assemble a team of leaders from different departments and collectively identify ethical challenges in your company, such as discrimination and bullying. You will want to take into account laws and industry regulations. For example, data governance legislation influences how companies acquire, share, protect, and profit from personal data.

Communicating ethical guidelines to employees helps keep everyone on the same page and can reduce unethical behavior. This can include detailing the company’s ethical policies in your employee handbook, as well as consequences for team members who do not adhere to these standards.

Addressing Ethical Dilemmas and Challenges

Almost every company will face ethical dilemmas. Sometimes, leaders will have to choose between living out the company’s core values and their bottom line. 

A compelling example of this is found in the early days of the career platform The Muse. CEO Kathryn Minshew made a principled stand by ceasing business with a client who disrespected her junior employees. This decision emphasizes the importance of prioritizing ethical standards over short-term revenue gains. Minshew's choice to support her team's dignity over profit is a powerful testament to ethical leadership.

Ethical challenges can also occur when an organization's ethical guidelines conflict with employees' personal beliefs or interests. Employees may not fully support all of the company's ethical positions or may desire to see more advocacy for specific causes. Unaddressed, these conflicts can erode trust and morale within the organization.

There are several approaches to consider implementing:

  • Foster an atmosphere of safety and open communication within the workplace where employees can express ethical concerns without fear of retaliation.
  • Implement an anonymous messaging system to allow employees to discreetly share their thoughts and concerns about the company's ethical practices. 
  • Consider all sides impacted by a decision. Commit to decision-making processes that provide fair and balanced resolutions to ethical dilemmas.
  • Offer training programs that support practice in ethical decision-making skills.
  • Provide a structured approach to ethical concerns with a dedicated ethics committee or officer. 

Addressing ethical dilemmas and challenges in the workplace requires a dedicated, detailed strategy. Creating one might involve consulting with legal experts and industry organizations that promote business ethics. 

Measuring the Impact of Ethical Practices

SEveralDifferent tools and techniques can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of your organization's ethical policies in your organization. For example, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) software can help you adhere to legislation and industry frameworks. You can use it to carryit carry out an ethical audit of your business processes to make sure they reflect your company's vision and values. That can help you improve ethical practices and increase organizational success.

An ethical audit can also improve compliance with legislation such as equal employment opportunity and occupational safety laws. Doing so can prevent government penalties for non-compliance and foster a more ethical workplace. It can also help you better align your business practices with your company values, which builds trust with employees. 

By being consistent with audits, you may see an improvement in your brand reputation and employee satisfaction.  

Surveys are another way to measure business ethics. Team members can provide insights about their knowledge and opinions of your ethical practices. Gathering feedback from surveys with 1-5 rating scales lets you objectively track your ethical framework over time. 

You can also ask open-ended questions that allow people to offer not just feedback but solutions. You can then make improvements to your framework based on their responses. Open-ended questions can also help you learn what you’re doing well in your ethical strategy.

Examples of questions to ask include the following:

  1. How could the company change its ethical practices to better represent our core values?
  2. On a scale of 1 to 5, how \ comfortable would you feel reporting your ethical concerns to your manager?
  3. Tell us about a situation where the organization’s ethics were at stake. Do you feel it was handled well? What could we do differently?

Leverage Wellbeing to Strengthen Your Ethical Culture 

Treating your workforce well is a critical component of operating ethically. It’s more than the right thing to do — it sets the standard employees follow for how to treat coworkers and customers. In order for morality to take root and flourish at your organization, you have to set the right example.

Taking care of employee wellbeing sets a clear and caring example. You can do this with a workforce wellness program: Giving employees the tools they need to move, feel, sleep, and eat well sends a clear message that your company is there to do more than grow the bottom-line. You’re here to do good. 

Let Wellhub help you strengthen your workplace culture. Talk with a wellbeing specialist today!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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