Could Your Workplace Benefit From Ethics Training?

There is no universal moral code to guide businesses through complex dilemmas about what is right or wrong. Business ethics contain principles and standards that guide the behavior of business. It entails what is right or wrong, and dictates what behavior is acceptable within the organization. Attention to ethics in the workplace sensitizes management and employees to how they should conduct themselves while in the workplace. Being conscious of ethics in the workplace will help ensure that when managers and employees are facing crucial times and decision making, that they will uphold the values and ethics of the company.

Ethics training in the workplace should be a major concern to companies and employees as a whole. The ethical framework of a company defines who they are, and their reputation relies upon it. A company should start by having an ethics policy in place and promote its use to everyone in the organization. This should include extensive training, evaluations and promotion of the ethics policies. Use staff meetings, and other training sessions to discuss the ethical overview of the company. Be sure to have a clear and visible statement in regards to your core business principles.

Ways to Enforce Ethics Training

The ethics policy and procedure training will not be effective unless the employees know that the policies exist. Having several ways of communicating the message will enforce its viability. The employees should become very familiar with the policies and act in accordance with the policies. The training can be implemented in several ways that will reinforce the company’s position on adhering to the code of conduct. Below is a list of examples on how a company can train their employees on ethics.

1. Make new employees aware of the ethics policy when they begin working at the company.

2. Review the ethics code of conduct in management and employee trainings.

3. Having upper management review the ethics policy will reinforce the training within the management team.

4. Resolving any ethical dilemmas that may arise in accordance with the guidelines will reinforce the belief that the company has in the policy.

5. Include ethical performance evaluations and appraisals. Reward employees who demonstrate the ethical values of the company.

6. Provide all employees within the organization a copy of the ethics policy.

The decision to do right or wrong may not be an easy decision to everyone. Having an ethical code of conduct in place within an organization should encourage the employee to make the correct decision. The training and management that has occurred with the implementation should lead them to make a decision that is in accordance with the ethics and culture of the company.

References:

Carter McNamara, M. P. (n.d.). Complete Guide to Ethics Management: An Ethics Toolkit for Managers. Retrieved from Free Management Website: http://managementhelp.org/businessethics/ethics-guide.htm

Ethics, M. C. (2010). Thinking Ethically: A Framework for Moral Decision Making. Ethics Resource Center.

 

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Ethics in Finance, Who Should Be Held Responsible?

Ethics in the corporate finance is becoming a widespread issue. With all of the corruption in business today and lack of ethics, people are being misled and a losing a fortune of their income to the greedy corporate giants. Far too often we hear or read about a company that is accused with corruption and the enormous amount of money that they have wrongfully taken from the public, or from people within their own corporation. There is a huge lack of and disregard for ethics in the business world. Once considered Taboo, it seems as though unethical behavior in business is now the norm. The government expects businesses to uphold ethical standards on their own without government interference. When they break the law, the government gets involved. There have been regulations put into place to curve and ultimately cease altogether the amount of corruption in the corporate world.

Legislators are cracking down on unethical and criminal behavior that occurs within businesses. Since all of the recent corruption in business in the last few years, new legislation has come about to govern how companies handle the financial reporting of a company. John R. Boatright in “Individual Responsibility in the American Corporate System: Does Sarbanes-Oxley Strike the Right Balance? argues that governing laws is a method of deterrence is correct. If companies know that they are mandated to follow certain guidelines and adhere to certain rules, than that may deter them from criminal wrong doing and committing fraud.” The Sarbanes-Oxley Act did not develop because all business were conducting business ethically and are doing the right thing. Many companies have defrauded their stakeholders, employees, and the public. They have cost Americans billions of dollars due to their unethical behavior.

There should be individual responsibility attached to the fraud that exists within these companies. With all of the financial analysis tools that are available today, accountants and top management are able to produce financial disclosures and give accurate projections of a company’s finances. These tools should make the process run more smoothly being as though they now have the capabilities to produce profit and loss statements, future projections, accrual and cash statements, and a wealth of other tools to make keeping an accurate account of their financials relatively simple. The profitability and rate of return for a company can be shown through use of the above mentioned tools. This will assist in giving a better outlook to investors, shareholders, etc. Giving the true and accurate financial outlook of a company can better help an investor or anyone who has in interest in the company to make a more informed decision as to whether or not they will go into business with the company.

Are You A Workplace Bully or Victim?

Some adults went throughout their young lives being in fear of going to school. They were not intimidated by the pressures of the teachers or the abundance of work, they were in fear of the school bullies. They are so eager to get out into the workplace and begin their normal lives as adults. Years later in their career, they are overcome by the same feelings of anxiety and fear that they felt when they were in grammar school.  Then their worst fears are confirmed, the bullies are not just in school, they are in the workplace.

Workplace bullying is all too real in today’s society. Workplace bullying is defined as a pattern of behavior that harms, intimidates, undermines, offends, degrades or humiliates an employee. This type behavior can typically be done in front of other employees, clients or customers. This can lead to serious health problems and safety issues. This can cause the victim to feel defenseless, and lead to a hostile work environment. Workplace bullying can also cause them to suffer from physical and mental health problems that can last for years.

Examples of Types of Bullying

  • Being sworn at, shouted at or humiliated
  • Unwarranted or invalid criticism
  • Exclusion or social isolation
  • Unjustified blame
  • Being treated differently from others in your workplace
  • Excessive monitoring, micro-managing or being given unrealistic deadlines

Workplace bullying can be initiated by supervisors, colleagues, contract workers, or other influential representatives working alongside the company. Workplace bullying can lead to other things such as violence in the workplace or causing the victim to harm themselves or someone else to stop the bullying.

Effects Of Workplace Bullying

  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Sleep and digestive issues
  • Physical and mental health problems
  • Cause stress in the home
  • Tardiness and absence from work
  • Increased depression or self-blame
  • High stress environment causing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What Can Employers Do?

Employers must get involved to stop the workplace bullying from occurring and possibly minimizing the effects to the victim. Employers must first acknowledge that there is a problem and immediately find solutions to solve the issues to prevent future workplace bullying. If the supervisor or employer is aware of bullying and turns a blind eye, that is giving the impression that they accept and tolerate that behavior in the workplace. No employer should want to create a hostile work environment where their employees are subject to mistreatment and bullying and they do not take action to stop it. Victims should be made aware that the employer has resources to help them and reporting the incident will be handled through the proper channels with discretion. Victims of workplace bullying should not fear retaliation or loss of employment for reporting the matter. Workplace bullying is less likely to occur when it is understood that the company has a zero tolerance policy for this type of degrading behavior.

Are you a workplace bully or victim? If so, seek help immediately.

Whistleblowers, A Protected Class?

Employees are reluctant to report instances of unethical practices due to the fear of retaliation from their employer. Some individuals may not want to be labeled as a whistleblower. A whistleblower is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in a company. The alleged misconduct may be classified in many ways such as, a violation of a rule of law or regulation, a direct threat to the interest of the public such as fraud, health and safety violations, and corruption. Whistleblowing is becoming more frequent in the world. Employees that do decide to blow the whistle ponder many things before they make their decision. They may fear loss of their job, or any form of retaliation from their employer. It can be said that whistleblowers have a higher form of ethics.

Whistleblowers see the wrong and unethical practices that are occurring at their place of employment. They may feel a sense of guilt if they do not report what is occurring. Often times, the unethical practice that is occurring at the job may be potentially harmful to someone else. If there are unsafe practices occurring at a meat packing plant, or any industry that serves food to the public, shouldn’t the public be made aware of it? Or other instances at companies may involve harm to animals or harm to the environment. If left untold, that could create a huge problem for society.

Whistleblower Protection

Whistleblowers are exposing the truth about what is really occurring in some industries. They are essentially “saving” the public from harm. The Department of Labor has deemed that whistleblowers are a protected class. They are risking their careers and possibly their livelihood to expose the wrong doing of a company. The wrong doing does not just occur at manufacturing facilities, unethical practices are increasing in corporate America.   The Whistleblower Protection for Employees of Publicly Traded companies states that  “No company with a class of securities registered under section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 781), or that is required to file reports under section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 780(d)), or any officer, employee, contractor, subcontractor, or agent of such company, may discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because of any lawful act done by the employee”. There are numerous laws that protect the individual that came forth exposing the corruption.

This statute protects the rights of the whistleblower against possible retaliation. Having that added protection should encourage the whistleblower to come forward without any troubling consequences by their employer. This protection is needed in order for the government and any other agency to learn about the wrong doings or unethical practices of some companies that they would have otherwise not been made aware of.

Who Is Covered?

Any person who has the knowledge of alleged wrong doing can file a complaint. The Whistle Blowers Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of over 22 statutes protecting employees who speak out. “Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), employees may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for exercising any right afforded by the OSH act, such as complaining to the employer union, OSHA, or any other government agency about workplace safety or health hazards; or for participating in OSHA inspection conferences, hearings, or other OSHA-related activities.” This act prohibits employers form retaliating against their employees for whistleblowing. It is the right of the employee to file a complaint with OSHA that may lead to an investigation of the employer. By exercising their rights, the whistleblower could prevent future harm or corrupt practices by an organization.

Retaliation can come in many different forms. Below is a list of possible methods of black balling or ousting of the whistleblower:

  • Being terminated from employment
  • Reduction in wages
  • A demotion
  • Denial of overtime or promotion
  • Unwarranted acts of discipline
  • Intimidation
  • Threats
  • Black listing

The employee protection provisions listed above forbid covered employers from terminating or in any way discriminating against any employee because the employee engaged in certain activities protected by law. The employer will face legal actions if they are found in violation of this law.

The whistleblower investigation manual can be a guide to learn more about the investigation process.

How to file a complaint can be found at https://www.osha.gov

References

http://www.whistleblowers.gov/

http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-whistleblower

https://www.osha.gov

http://www.whistleblowers.gov/acts/ccfa.html

Do Deceptive Business Ethics Pay Off?

Ethics and moral responsibilities have been an issue for centuries. People as well as businesses sometimes have a hard time distinguishing what should be done vs. what ought to be done. From a business aspect, managers have a higher degree of responsibility to uphold ethics and morals when handling company business and dealings with employees, shareholders, investors, or anyone else that has a stake in the company. At times, state and government agencies have to step in and mandate the ethics that should be taking place in the workforce.

Ethics in the corporate world is becoming a widespread issue. With all of the corruption in business today and lack of ethics, people are being misled and a losing a fortune of their income to the greedy business owners. Far too often we hear or read about a company that is accused of corruption and the enormous amount of money that they have wrongfully taken from the public. Since all of the recent corruption in business in the last few years, new legislation has come about to govern how companies handle the financial reporting of a company. With all of the financial analysis tools that are available today, accountants and management are able to produce financial disclosures and give accurate projections of a company’s finances.

Some ways to avoid deceptive business tactics can be accomplished by keeping your business account separate from your personal account. Escrow accounts should be used to separate the client’s money from the personal money of the owner or person in charge of the company finances. This will eliminate the commingling of funds. Having a checks and balances system in place can also reduce the risk of comingling funds in an organization. If one person is managing the finances, have that person report to a higher authority. They should be able to produce on demand an accurate financial accounting of the company’s funds.

Misleading clients is also a deceptive business tactic. Some business owners intentionally or unintentionally mislead their clients. Over promising and under delivering can hurt any organization. It is important to be up front and honest with your clients to ensure that you have the same common goals in mind. Managing expectations should be the priority of any business. The client should be made aware of all of the possibilities that could arise from the situation. They should know that past success is not a guarantee of future success. Giving the client the worst case scenario can be the best option. This way, the client will not be blindsided in the end, and wonder why you did not warn them of what could happen.

Deceptive business ethics do not pay off. When caught, the company or person can lose their job, financial stability, and respect of the community. Businesses that are exposed for their willful wrong doing will be left with a tarnished reputation that cannot be rebuilt. In some instances, businesses will even face criminal prosecution for the unethical business tactics that they have performed. Take the necessary steps and precautions to protect yourself and your business from deceptive business ethics.

Is Your Firm Protected from Sabotage by a Former Employee?

Making the decision to terminate an employee of your firm can be a hard task to carry out. Once you have made the decision and informed the employee that they are no longer apart of your firm, proactive measures must be taken to protect the firm’s data. Terminating an employee, whether for misconduct or a reduction in force, is almost always never a pleasant task.  Voluntary termination by an employee through resignation or retirement may not carry the negative effects of an involuntary termination, but the proactive measures should still be implemented. At times, employees may be disgruntled about losing their job. Your firm should protect itself from intentional or even unintentional sabotage by a former employee.

IT or the manager should immediately revoke all computer, network, and data access the former employee had access to. Remote access to the firm’s network and other data should be revoked immediately. The former employee should not have access to the company-owned property, such as a laptop, computer or intellectual property such as files containing client’s information, firm trade secrets and billing information.

Change Passcodes and Methods of Entry

Allowing an employee to continue to have access to privileged information about the work product of the firm or clients can lead to unwanted exposure of confidential information. If the office has a secured entrance, make sure to collect any keycards or physical key from the employee. Changing passcodes to entry of the office should be done as well. If a former employee is disgruntled, they may decide to come back into the office and destroy the property or obtain confidential company files or information.

Confiscate All Technology Devices

If the employee had a company phone or laptop, be sure to retrieve those devices before the employee leaves the property. If this is done after the fact, the former employee may refuse to return any devices. They may use this as leverage against the firm and begin to initiate demands. Get a list of all the documents and other pertinent data that the employee was using or working on. It will also be a good idea to find out what templates or documents that have been forwarded, downloaded or copied, that is property of the firm.

Email and Web Based Accounts

Restrict access to all email accounts that the employee has access to. You can create a temporary account with limited accessibility and user rights to ensure that all incoming emails from clients and other business dealings are redirected to another employee. Even if you think that the former employee would not do anything to harm the firm, lax policies can expose your whole network make your firm vulnerable to a security breach.

Just as the granting of access should be documented for future reference, the revocation of access should also be documented as well, especially for legal purposes. The results of this effort should be greater protection of the firm’s data as well as being prepared for any litigation regarding data theft, hacking, and other forms of illegal or misuse of company technology and information.

Does Your Workplace Have An Ethical Code of Conduct?

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Ethics and moral responsibility have been an issue for centuries. People as well as business sometimes a hard time distinguishing what should be done vs. what ought to be done. From a business aspect, managers have a higher degree of responsibility to uphold ethics and morals when handling company business and dealings with employees, shareholders, investors, or anyone else that has a stake in interest in the company. Ethics defines the moral composition of a person or business. The moral code of ethics is doing the right thing when no one is looking. The concept has come to mean various things to different people and organizations, but generally it comes down to knowing what it right or wrong in the workplace and doing what is right.

Managing Ethics in the Workplace

Ethics in the workplace should be a major concern to companies and employees as a whole. The ethical framework of a company defines who they are, and their reputation is built on it. A company should start by having an ethics policy in place and promote its use to everyone in the organization. Ethics policies can convey corporate values using codes of conduct and policies to guide acceptable decisions and behavior in the workplace. This should include extensive training, evaluations and promotion of the ethics policies.

“All organizations have ethics programs, but most do not know that they do,” wrote business ethics professor Stephen Brenner in the Journal of Business Ethics (1992, V11, pp. 391-399). “A corporate ethics program is made up of values, policies and activities which impact the propriety of organization behaviors.”

Doing this will increase awareness and effectively communicate the expectations of all involved. This will lead to an increase of transferred skills and behavior that demonstrate the ethical values of the company.

Ethics Reporting System

Employers should encourage their employees to report ethical wrong doing.  Having an ethics reporting system in place can have great benfits in the workplace. The accessibility, refuge and resolution of an ethics reporting system can make everyone feel more comfortable about reporting suspected ethics violations. Refuge and confidentiality are huge issues among employees, and management. They may be deterred from reporting ethics violations if they feel as though they will be retaliated against by the ones involved. The reporting system will allow them to reveal the ethics violations in confidence. This should include a phone number that they can call to report the ethical violations of a company.

Companies should encourage a positive working environment within the office. If the company itself demonstrates their belief in the code of ethics, this will define the value of the company and model of integrity that all should follow. With this in place, everyone will buy into the code of ethics and encourage them to want to do what is right.  Ethics programs cultivate strong teamwork and productivity. The attitude and behavior of everyone involved should mimic the codes in the ethics policy.

Is your workplace doing what is ethically right?

References:

Steven N. Brenner. Journal of Business Ethics 11 (5-6):391-399 (1992) … Journal of Business Ethics 81 (4):751 – 764.