Accountability in the Workplace (943.2)

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.

Comments 5

  1. I am blessed to work for a company that has a whole department devoted to ethics and compliance. Employees are surveyed annually about ethics discussions in team meetings. It’s a wonderful culture I’m proud to be part of. That said, I have held my tongue, smiled, and nodded acquiescently when my own boss was isolating and psychologically harassing each member of our team. I needed the job to keep a roof over my family’s head and food in our bellies. Sometimes the purest sense of ethics takes a back seat when poverty is a factor.

  2. After less than six months of being hired, I left a job with very little regret mainly because of the low ethical environment of the place. It’s a shame, since it is the largest in the world in its particular industry and I accepted it because I saw myself growing, with meant adapting, learning and contributing. I risked my source of income to live in peace and a clean conscience.

  3. Every time our company conducts its employee survey the question about open and honest communication always scores poorly because of fear that local management will retaliate if an employee questions their actions.

  4. Fantastic analysis , I am thankful for the analysis , Does anyone know if my company could possibly obtain a sample 2011 IRS 943 version to work with ?

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