Over the years, there have been plenty of examples of businesses walking a fine ethical line, and there are plenty more examples of those that have stepped off completely. But what about the individual? How can she or he develop an ethical framework, and what are the benefits?
An individual ethical framework begins with treating others with respect, being honest, trusting in others, acting in a way that others can trust, and consistently striving to set a good example. In other words, build your ethical framework openly and lead by example. Be empathetic in your approach to working with others. Put yourself in their shoes and consider the implications of the decisions you need to make.
Further developing this ethical framework requires reflection and an understanding of what you value and how that compares to what most other people value. If you value equality, then make sure you are treating people equally and look at ways within the company where you, or the company as a whole, can do better. For instance, if you are an HR manager and have access to payroll files and can see women are generally paid less than men, begin to work on correcting that issue.
Are there benefits?
Treating others with respect and dignity fosters respect, especially when you are in a management role. But, it can also have a larger impact. In the example I noted above, until an individual draws attention to something they view as unethical, that policy or action is unlikely to change. When changes are made that improve people’s lives, that change has value, as does the employee who advocated for the change. She or he has effectively opened the eyes of others to look for other places to effect change. It can become contagious.
I encourage you to take some time to understand what it is you value and think about how that can shape the decisions you make personally and professionally.
Anne Converse Willkomm Director of Graduate Studies Goodwin College Drexel University