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A Need for Business Code Ethics:

Driven by Recent Business Ethics Cases

Business code ethics are important; a number of recent business ethics cases prove the need. To be effective, communication and ethics need to be aligned. Use a goal based ethics approach in your business.

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In the last decade the focus on ethics in business has dramatically increased.

Attention is coming from all sectors: employees, managers, clients and the general public.

There have been so many legal cases about breaches in a company's code of ethics headlining the news, this attention is hardly surprising.

Yet a number of businesses do not have business code ethics. The potential for lawsuits, and even arrest, is only one of the good reasons to consider having a business code of ethics which will help you to develop written leadership values and focus on managerial ethics.

What does a Business Code of Ethic Provide?

Having solid business ethics builds better internal and external relationships and a spirit of social and professional cooperation.

Additionally, good reasons to create a business code of ethics include:

  • a definition of business ethics, and what it means to your organization and culture;
  • delineating what are acceptable workplace activities and behaviors;
  • illustrating mature, reasonable and professional thought;
  • facilitating your overall corporate identity and culture;
  • clarifying responsibilities to the company and its community;
  • providing a tool for on-going staff performance evaluation (including potential new staff);
  • encouraging the highest level of standards for the industry you work in;
  • focusing on common values, missions and goals.

When you review the development of your business code of ethics, and what to include, you have to take a long hard look at the business goals and culture and to find a balance between the two.

What are Goal Based Ethics?

How to Apply Them in Business?

More businesses are looking at goal based ethics as part of their ethical programs. Goal based ethics are focused on the consequences of decision making or problem solving.

Some definitions of goal based ethics focus on making good decisions rather than the 'right' decision. However, that is not the intent of ethics focused on business goals; in effect if that was the definition, then the term 'goal based ethics' would be an oxymoron ('goal based' would contradict 'ethics'). The decision or solution does not have to be either good or right, it can be both good AND right.

Recent business ethics cases demonstrate the escalating ethics issues. For example, where an analyst has been fired for personal trading or an employee is charged with fraud and/or embezzlement.

These cases support the need to develop goal based ethics policies and practices, along with measures to assess that those policies are being followed.

While media reports focus on the sensational cases, in business there are often many more ethical decisions or reasons to be developed that are not high profile; just every-day decisions.

In those instances, the decisions or solutions are often a case of 'right versus right'; that is a choice between two right decisions. For example, do you charge one customer more than another because the one is more of a challenge to work for?

Communication and Ethics in Business

Once you've developed your business code ethics you need to communicate them internally and externally to all stakeholders.

In addition you need to ensure that you develop a communication policy that incorporates ethics. And, make sure to include the following key points:

  • Honesty and honor in all communications (no half truths, no sins of omission);
  • Responsible decision making based on open communication and diverse perspectives;
  • Comprehension of other's missives before reacting (making sure you're speaking the proverbial same language);
  • Use ethical communication as part of the culture of your business and your business community;
  • Avoid negativity, bullying, duress, etc. in all corporate communications;
  • Respect the confidentiality of certain types of communication.

Ethical business communication means being responsible for what you say, what you do, and HOW you say it. Responsibility and accountability is the hub around which a good business code of ethics revolves.

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