Few people struggle with understanding ethics in the general sense. Simply put, it’s a defined set of rules and principles that guide how we should behave.
When it comes to the organisations we work in, however, many people would have a much tougher time defining the principles that guide the codes of conduct within their own organisations.
And even when people are aware of those codes of conduct, it’s not always easy to translate them from abstract concepts into practical ways of handling real-life situations.
This lack of understanding can, in a worst-case scenario, result in the kind of scandal that does serious damage to a company’s reputation.
One of the most effective ways of avoiding such a scenario is to ensure your managers actively engage your employees on corporate conduct and ethics.
The leadership link
Managers are particularly important to helping employees understand ethics because they form the link between an organisation’s senior leadership and ordinary employees.
As employee and consulting firm Davis and Co. points out in a blog, senior leadership can bang on and on about a particular behaviour, but if managers aren’t talking to employees about it, they’ll assume it’s not an issue. When it comes to ethics especially, that assumption can be incredibly dangerous.
If, on the other hand, managers take the time to discuss codes of conduct with their employees, they’ll quickly realise that it’s something to be taken seriously.
Additionally, managers should be the ones calling employees out when they fail to live up to a code of conduct, further demonstrating that the organisation takes the behaviour of its employees seriously.
Managers are interpreters
Another reason managers are so vital to ensuring that employees understand, and engage with, corporate codes of conduct is that they are the ones best placed to interpret corporate information.
Properly equipped, they can take a new piece of corporate policy and explain to employees what it means to them and what they need to do differently.
Doing so means that employees will be able to properly connect with the policy and operate within its bounds.
This can only happen, however, if managers are given the necessary tools to make the relevant information tangible.
Helping managers out
When it comes to equipping managers with the tools necessary to ensuring their employees understand the kind of ethical behaviour they’d like their employees to engage in, there are a couple of things you can do.
The first is hold workshops on the topic. It’s important, however, that these workshops be useful to the managers. They should therefore address topics which are important to them and which employees ask them about frequently.
Through these workshops, and in the follow-up communications, it’s important that managers understand that spending time on ethics will only enhance the way their employees view them as leaders. Getting their employees to engage with the company’s codes of ethics will also enhance the manager’s leadership reputation among their seniors.
The second thing worth doing is to provide managers with communication tools that fit their style and schedule. If they only have 15 minutes a day to focus on ethics and compliance, ensure that they have everything they need to make the most of those 15 minutes.
Finally, it’s important that you set clear expectations for your managers. If they know what’s expected of them, they are much better placed to help employees understand their organisation’s expectations.
It won’t be perfect
Even if you get all of this right, however, you have to remember that not all managers will take part in your compliance programme. Some managers may simply not believe they need the extra support.
Rather than trying to get them to comply, you should focus your energy on those who want to improve, while emphasising the importance of communication through senior leadership.
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