How Important is an Ethical Corporate Culture?

Thursday 3 April, 2014


Whether or not a business operates ethically can be a significant factor in an employee’s willingness to work for the company. In fact, one US study found that more than a third of American employees had left a job because they disagreed with a company’s business ethics. The same research showed that a company’s ability to promote an ethical corporate culture was linked to an increased likelihood of attracting, retaining and ensuring employee productivity.


Why are ethics important in a business?


94 per cent of workers surveyed said it’s either critical or important that the company they work for is ethical. Variables such as occupation, gender and geography showed distinctive differences among groups. Women found the ethic of a company to hold more significance than men did while white-collar professionals were much more likely to consider the ethical culture of a business important than their blue-collared counterparts.


How do ethics relate to pay?


76 per cent of those working in blue-collar occupations would rather work for an ethical organisation than be paid more, compared to 86 per cent of full-time employees in professional white-collar fields. Older workers are also more likely to seek an ethical business culture than those under 35, though all ages groups generally steered towards ethics.


Employee Engagement and Ethics


Although the findings were positive overall, many workers did not consider the business they work for to be compliant with company policies or even with laws. Some said they either see management and peers acting in questionable ways or work at a company where they do what they are told and are not encouraged to ask questions about what is right or wrong. Even though most employees think highly of their employer’s ethical business practices, a quarter of those surveyed said that they have witnessed a colleague acting unethically, illegally or in a harassing or discriminatory manner.


Ethics and your business


There are many issues that can cause a breakdown in business ethics. You need to ensure that these issues are not a problem in your business in order to operate sustainably. Often and in many companies, employees are under pressure to achieve unrealistic objectives. Employees can start to feel that the only way they can get ahead is by compromising on their ethics. Even more worrying is the fact that some employees are rewarded for reaching objectives even if they obviously disregarded basic ethics. To prevent this from becoming a problem, you must carefully monitor how your employees are meeting their targets, with a particular focus on their ability to comply with your ethical code of conduct.


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