Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time consulting with large companies concerned with strengthening their ethical culture.
Although I’m sure the leaders I work with care about ethics and virtue for their own sake, I know the driving force to seek outside assistance is self-interest. The risk of reputation-damaging and resource-draining charges resulting from improper conduct is so high that it’s a matter of prudence and responsible stewardship to stress ethical values and moral principles.
Yet changing or strengthening an organization’s culture is no simple task. We start with a questionnaire to identify vulnerabilities – attitudes and behaviors that could jeopardize the company.
The most common vulnerability we find is a management style that represses frank and open discussions about ethical concerns and discourages revelation of bad news.
Invariably, we discover that at least one in five employees admit they lied to their superior about something significant within the past year, and at least one-third concealed or distorted negative information to avoid harmful career repercussions. Often, half or more employees say they remain silent rather than risk their boss’s anger, abuse, or disapproval. Thus, many questionable or improper actions go unreported and uncorrected – each one a scandal waiting to happen.
The antidote is explicit and credible corporate policies that promote accountability by making it clear that repressive management styles will not be tolerated and that every employee is encouraged and expected to muster the moral courage to report unwelcome facts and to voice dissenting opinions.
Meaningful improvement in business ethical culture requires persistent and pervasive efforts to create an environment that values and protects honesty, personal responsibility, and corporate integrity.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
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