The Four Principles of Ethical Management

Ethics , Business Team Ethics , Business Ethics Integrity Honest As a manager you’re going to find yourself in the position where your decision making skills are tested.

While you may, at times, feel as though you are guided by your own morals and beliefs, it is very important for you to remember to put your personal beliefs aside so that you can look at each situation objectively and make the most ethical decisions possible.

So how can you achieve this? 

What are managerial ethics? How can we define ethics in management?

AZCentral describes managerial ethics as ‘referring to the moral guidance a supervisor provides his employees.

No one ethical approach is universally accepted, so each business owner must choose his own approach to ethical management. Many ethical approaches exist, each with a distinct twist on what it means to behave ethically’.

So, it can be seen from many different perspectives. comments that ‘Managerial ethics is a basic part of business ethics. It is the set of moral principles or beliefs that affect the behaviour of employees.

While most people automatically assume that ethics directly correlates to laws, this isn’t always the case. Doing the right thing for employees and customers and demonstrating the willingness to go the extra mile also falls under managerial ethics.’

The answer to the question ‘what is managerial ethics?’ differs according to the situation we are in.

There are many examples of ethical management out there.

Ethical management is the practice of being honest and virtuous in a role as a manager. Management training will help you with this and there are several responsibilities and obligations of an ethical manager, including setting a good example, holding everyone to the same standard, and making expectations clear. In order to do this, there are four main principles of ethical management you need to keep in mind at all times.

They are as follows:

  • Respect for each employee – While it’s difficult at times, it is important to make sure you treat each of your employees or team members respectfully. Everyone you work with will have different religious and cultural beliefs and should be treated fairly. That’s why Equality and Diversity Training is so important.
  • Mutual respect – Your role as a manager involves making sure that your employees all treat each other respectfully as well. While they don’t all have to agree with each other, they should show proper respect for each other’s ideas and opinions. A team that doesn’t get along on a personal level will not work will together and will be less productive no matter what you try to do to boost team morale.
  • Procedural fairness – You may not have control of the procedures your company expects you to follow but you do have control over the procedures you can implement within your team. It is important to make sure the procedures you implement are fair to all of your employees – neither favouring nor neglecting one employee or another.
  • Decision making transparency – It’s incredibly important for you to make sure your employees understand why you make the decisions you do. If they realise you aren’t making arbitrary choices based on personal beliefs, they’ll be more likely to accept your decisions and work together as a team.

Are you acting as ethically as possible in the workplace?

Are there things you could change so that you and your team get along on a more professional level?

The ethical managers test

Some of you may have heard these questions before but I think they’re a fun way to bring the true consequences of unethical thinking into light.

Consider each of the following questions and be honest – you’re the only one who will know your answers.

Ethical dilemma #1

A pregnant woman already has eight children.

Three are deaf, two blind, and one mentally retarded. The pregnant woman herself has syphilis. Should she have an abortion?

Ethical dilemma #2

The world is going to elect one leader and you have the deciding vote.

Each candidate has their own qualities:

Candidate A associates with astrologers and questionable politicians, has had affairs, smokes, and drinks heavily.

Candidate B was kicked out of office two times, sleeps late into the day, drinks heavily, and used opium in college.

Candidate C is a decorated war hero, non-smoker, vegetarian, occasional drinker, and has been faithful in all of his relationships.

Who would you choose?

Do you have your answers?

First, if you answered YES to recommending an abortion you would have killed Beethoven.

As for the politicians. The first is Franklin D. Roosevelt, the second Winston Churchill, and the third Adolph Hitler.

The point here is that there is always more to a decision than meets the eye.

It’s important to ask questions and make educated decisions rather than jumping to conclusions based on the initial set of facts given to us.

Sometimes those gathering the facts are biased or they’re just plain misleading. It’s up to you to sort fact from fiction and make the most ethical decisions possible.

The ethical principles of people management

All eyes are on you.

Remember that the ethics you display at work are going to have a direct impact on the way your people behave and ultimately, perform. Most Management Development Programmes will cover management ethics because they set the standards for all others to follow.

Take a few moments to ask yourself a few questions in an effort to assess your own ethics in the workplace:

Do I have a specific set of beliefs? 

If so, what are they? Do you think about your beliefs as you work towards the goals you have set for yourself in life? Do your beliefs impact the people that you manage? Do they impact the decisions you make?

What are my goals? 

Do you have them written down so that you can remind yourself of them whenever necessary? Having goals will encourage you to work hard and make sure that everything we do is of the highest quality and are in alignment.

Do I need to enhance my skills? 

Are there any additional skills that you need to help develop your own skills and to help the people that you manage? Do you need some management skills training to help you? What books can you read? What videos and audios can you consume? Are you committed to developing those skills so that you can move forward?

What are my standards? 

Do you have a set level of standards that directly reflects the ethics you have put in place for yourself? Would you prefer mediocrity or only the highest quality of work? Is there ever a time to make an exception?

Do I practice what I preach? 

Do you tell your people to set standards, deliver high quality work, and treat each other respectfully and then give them a role model to look at? Do you act the way you want others to act and treat them as you would be treated? Are you setting a positive example for your employees?

Want some additional resources on ethical management?

Below are links to 2 valuable articles that will provide you with some additional information and knowledge on the topic.

man persuading ethically
manager working ethically with people


If you’re looking to improve your management and leadership skills we have a FREE Online Management Course that you can sign up to. The course consists of 5 online videos and supporting documentation to help.

Thanks again




Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 24 September, 2019

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