Unethical behavior occurs in the workplace more often than you might think. In fact, some 56 percent of employees have witnessed at least one act of unethical behavior at work. From misrepresenting hours worked and stealing office supplies to lying to the boss and misusing the internet, one recent survey reflects a variety of unethical behavior that has become commonplace in today’s business world.
However, these unethical behaviors pale in comparison to some of the corporate scandals that have grabbed recent headlines.
Toshiba made the news when company executives admitted to padding profit statements by $2 billion over a seven-year period. Volkswagen came under fire when the company admitted it installed software on cars to trick EPA testers into believing certain vehicles were more eco-friendly than they actually were.
Even the sports world isn't immune from unethical behaviors, as executives in FIFA, the governing body of soccer, were indicted by the FBI in 2015 for racketeering and fraud for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for broadcasting rights.
Let’s look at some of the actions business leaders can take to ensure their operation is committed to ethical behavior.
- Discuss ethical questions
Ethical problems linger in every project, and it's important to address these issues as needed. When a new project starts, for example, leaders should discuss the ethical problems that could arise and talk about ways to avoid such issues. It's important to weave the topic of ethics into daily work conversations, so employees can identify and avoid unethical behavior.
- Lead by example
Lead by example, that's the tried-and-true mantra of many business leaders. As a leader, your employees watch what you say and do, which is why executives must exemplify the kind of honest behavior they want to see in the halls of their business. It's not enough to talk about ethics; leaders must practice it.
- Create a trusting environment
Leaders who hunt for unethical behavior at every turn aren't going to foster trusting relationships. The best way to build trust in your employees is to trust them to begin with. Extend this courtesy to your employees, and the majority of employees will return the favor.
- Encourage employees to report unethical behavior
If an employee sees unethical behavior, he or she must feel comfortable enough to report it. Questionable behavior often lingers because employees fear repercussions for “shedding light on situations of business malpractice. Make sure your business encourages employees to speak to managers, no matter how high up the chain of command they are, if they see an ethical breach.
Consider an anonymous reporting system as well, like a tip line that employees can call and leave information for executives to investigate.
In addition to taking the steps above, encouraging employees to further their education in business can also provide the sound ethical leadership every business needs.
The online Master of Business Administration at Queens University of Charlotte can help prepare you for these and other challenges in today’s business world. Powered by the McColl School of Business, the online MBA’s focus on business leadership -- which encompasses corporate governance and ethics -- is evident throughout the curriculum. Online MBA students will develop into leaders based on the program’s 3Cs model:
*Commitment to Community
To get more details about online MBA experience, leadership, and business ethics, request more information here.