Ethics in the workplace: It’s a matter of corporate culture

Posted On March 29, 2018

How often do you think about business ethics? How do you instill them in your workplace? How do you react to an ethical lapse by an employee or a co-worker?

In the new episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” we explore these issues with Dr. Skip Ames of the Sorrell College of Business at Troy University. Ames has nearly 50 years of legal experience, including six in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps. He has taught at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and currently focuses on business ethics at Troy.

In order to foster a workplace where a strong sense of ethics takes root, Ames stresses the importance of creating a corporate culture that’s based on your company’s values and that results in what he calls a “Speak-up Culture” – where employees feel empowered to speak freely about ethical lapses they see, with the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and acted upon.

“The more you develop that speak-up culture and the more you develop an environment where communication and discussion takes place, the better off that company is going to be,” Ames says.

Also in this episode, Ames shares:

  • Why even small, seemingly harmless ethical violations must be addressed.
  • Why American companies should stand by their ethical standards, even when doing business in countries with different ethical codes.
  • Why “winning at all costs” is not a viable corporate culture.
  • When to confront a co-worker who is having an ethical lapse and when to go to management.
  • Why it’s important to have a compliance and ethics program, even if it’s only one person, and why such programs are not just defensive tools.
  • Why “closing the loop” – investigating and acting on reports of ethical failures – is essential.

Ames says most of his cases over the years have involved “ethical failures by good people,” not dastardly schemes by criminal minds. “It’s pressure. It’s greed,” he says. “It’s the effect of a corrupt and a corrosive corporate culture on good people.”

That’s why creating a positive culture, a culture in which employees know ethics are important and lapses will be dealt with seriously, should be a central goal of every business.

Ames says everyone from corporate CEOs to small business owners need to be honest with themselves about what their company’s culture is, craft a code of ethics to mirrors the company’s values, and develop a repetitive training program to instill that culture in its employees.

Join us for an enlightening discussion on this important topic.

Categories: Podcast, Workplace