Coffee and Conundrums: Ethics in the Office

During our April board meeting, Jennifer Allen from Insero & Co. brought an article from Harvard Business Review for our discussion: When Competition Between Coworkers Leads to Unethical Behavior.

Elana Augustine, communications committee member, added to the discussion with the following on ethics in the office.

Employees go to the office to do an honest day’s work for an honest paycheck. We contribute our talents and knowledge to help the company succeed; there’s a working relationship between what we’re giving and what we’re receiving. However, as personal relationships can deteriorate over time if not properly nurtured, so can our working relationships if not ethically maintained by management; this includes both our direct supervisors and the overall company leadership. Here are a few key tips to foster a professional and ethical office environment that allows for best practices and, in turn, profits to flourish:

  1. Base your leadership on trust, not fear. “I love being micromanaged and heavily scrutinized,” said no employee ever. Fear-based management leads to employees with high stress and anxiety along with reduced productivity due to worry of making a mistake, being lectured for petty matters, receiving a reprimand for voicing an opinion, etc. Trust-based management leads to confident employees that have pride in their work – and their company. The choice is clear!
  2. Don’t lie. Honesty really is the best employment policy. Keeping your promises about starting pay, raises, PTO, and other important items shows that you consider your employees to be valuable people, not replaceable objects. Likewise, if you tell an employee to do a specific task that another manager discovers yet doesn’t like, don’t let your employee take the blame; be an advocate for the person (and your reputation).
  3. Good ideas weren’t made to be stolen. Good ideas were made to be implemented. Instead of being intimidated by smart team members and taking credit for their ideas out of insecurity, be the manager who celebrates your team’s knowledge, insight, and willingness to voice opinions.
  4. Retaliation is ridiculous. It’s a sad reality that some businesses are more focused on protecting bad managers instead of their professional integrity. Many companies promote their open-door policy, ethics hotline, and other tools for employees to voice their concerns. Many managers also terminate and/or passive aggressively intimidate good employees who speak up about bad behaviors, such as a manager acting unethically and/or being verbally demeaning to subordinates. Rather than punishing honest employees that have the courage to speak up at the right time, managers should reward them for having strong principles and the desire to do the right thing.