Berger Leadership Blog

Oct 22, 2021 by B. Dan Berger

Building an Ethical Company

Good or bad, people don’t enter the workforce with a fixed moral character. Employees can nurture their skills and abilities over time, molding themselves to be more ethical. This starts with the leadership in the organization.

In an article from the Harvard Business Review, Isaac H. Smith and Maryam Kouchaki discuss instilling ethics into one’s organization at the forefront, rather than introducing ethical conduct as a company protocol.

Here are a few tips from Smith and Kouchaki that highlight the potential for the workplace to be a “moral laboratory” where people can find the opportunities and support to learn and grow:

  • Recognize the role of work in our lives

Work takes up a lot of time in everyone’s lives and it’s important to realize that work isn’t a break from life – rather, it’s incorporated into your life. It’s your duty to maintain your ethical standards as you work every day.

  • Let experience be a teacher

People learn and shift morals based on experiences. The more experiences, the more opportunities we have to learn. So, for younger employees who have less experience, create opportunities for them to try new tasks and open space for them to make their own conclusions.

  • Create a safe place for reflection

Reflection is key. As the philosopher John Kekes has written, “insufficient reflection leads to loss of self-control, ignorance of oneself, and to a failure to align one’s ideals and moral vision.”

  • Institutionalize group discussions about ethics

To maximize learning, managers can make ethics an explicit and expected part of workflow by holding “after-action reviews” where employees can discuss whether or not the meeting aligned with the organization’s values.

  • Focus on serving others

Building a truly ethical culture involves more than just helping people to avoid doing bad things; it also requires empowering them to do good things.

  • Encourage mentors to address ethics

Few organizations explicitly incorporate ethical issues into their mentoring programs and relationships which is a missed opportunity. By developing strong, trusting relationships, mentors can bring their vast experience to bear on the ethical learning of others.

Despite popular belief, a company fighting in a competitive industry can truly bring out the best in people – if led correctly. By incorporating ethics into your organization’s daily culture, you will see successful results from your employees and feel better while doing it.

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