The other day we approached the idea of ethics in the workplace, breaking the concept down into three main categories. Today I’d like to take a look at how you, or your organisation, treat your employees.
When you consider whether or not you are treating employees in an ethical manner, you have to take a look at your main managerial roles. They are to hire and/or fire employees, make sure they are given fair wages and safe working conditions, to protect their rights to privacy, and to treat them with respect.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
What happens when you hire an employee with a bad attitude or with a different set of religious values that make you or other employees uncomfortable? Can you fire him? Most people might agree that if an employee doesn’t “fit in” with the work group, he or she will not be successful. The problem is in the fact that whether or not you all get along with each other has nothing to do with whether or not your employee is doing his job effectively. What if that same employee was the best research assistant in the entire department, working at twice the rate of your other employees? Is it fair to discriminate against him just because he has follows a different religious path or has a surly attitude?
Another example of poor ethics is displayed when one demographic group is paid less for the same job as another. Women and immigrants, for example, may find they are making much less than men in the exact same roles with the exact same job duties. In some countries, the difference in pay ranges from anywhere from an astounding 25 to 50 percent.
What if, as a manager, your employee discloses some information about his medical history or personal life? He may need to give you this information so that you can work with him on a schedule or work load change, but should the information go any further than your office? In most cases it should not, but in many instances that information makes it to the water cooler, where mangers swap stories about their employees. One person vows the next person to secrecy, and so on – until the entire office knows someone else’s personal information. Not only was the sharing of information unethical, but it was a blatant breach of privacy.
Neither of these situations is fair to the employees who are being judged. If your employees feel as though they can’t trust their manager or company, they’ll begin to develop an attitude of discontent. No one wants to work in an unethical environment.
Make sure that proper ethics courses are included in your new hire and management training programs. Acting properly will save you and your company a lot of time and aggravation.
Originally published: 19 September, 2008
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