How to improve ethics at your company

Bear in mind these helpful tips when facing an ethical dilemma in the workplace

Enron. Wells Fargo. Volkswagen. It's hard for good, ethical people to imagine how these meltdowns could possibly happen. But in reality, many of us face an endless stream of ethical dilemmas at work.

Here’s what can work to improve the ethical climate in your organisation:

1. Know where you stand: Official codes of conduct can sometimes be unhelpful when it comes to managing dilemmas. Instead, you need to understand what matters to you.

Emotional intelligence and self-awareness enable you to build your inner compass. You also need emotional self-control: It takes courage to step away from the crowd and do the right thing.


2. Learn what really matters in your organisation: To be prepared to challenge the rules of your organisation, you need to learn to listen to weak signals about what the organisation truly values. You can pay more attention to how people are paid, who gets promotions and why, and how employees feel about the company.

3. Build a strong and diverse personal network: When making ethical decisions, it’s important to recognise that your way isn’t the only way. The challenge is that most leaders have networks full of people who think and act like them and many fail to seek out diverse opinions. To overcome this, you need empathy, which allows you to learn how to read others and understand what matters to them.

4. Speak up: If, after consulting your network, you believe something’s going wrong, it may be time to be brave and speak up. There are well-documented positive consequences of speaking out and trying to resolve ethical dilemmas: increased self-respect, improved confidence and a more ethical work climate.

(Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017)