HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsDoing it the right way: Managing business ethics

Doing it the right way: Managing business ethics


DOING our everyday business the right way is the only panacea on how business regains trust through long-term value creation. There cannot be a right way of doing a wrong thing as many are doing nowadays. While knowing and understanding ethics is well known, the difficult part of ethics does not lie in knowing what it is or it is not, but on living it and behaving accordingly. In essence, ethics is concerned with what’s right or good. Ethics, therefore, involves moral choices between right and wrong, and good and bad.

Guest column: Emmanuel Zvada

Business ethics comprise principles and standards that guide behaviour in the world of business. It can also be defined as right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable behaviour within an organisation or the ground rules on the way you relate within your organisation. The sole reason of having business ethics is about building relationships of trust between people and organisations as it absolutely saves as an essential ingredient to conducting business successfully. Attention to ethics in the workplace helps employees become full of confidence; they can admit and deal with whatever comes their way properly.

Companies and business people who wish to thrive long-term must adopt sound ethical decision-making practices. Companies and people who behave in a socially responsible manner are much more likely to enjoy ultimate success than those whose actions are motivated solely by profits. Knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing what is right is the foundation for ethical decision making in organisations. In many cases, doing the right thing often leads to the greatest financial, social, and personal rewards in the long run. Apart from that ethics help avoid criminal acts of omission or other litigations that may arise.

Managing ethical values at the workplace legitimises managerial decisions, improves trust and relationships between individuals and as a result leads to qualities of products.
Common unethical practices in business include bribes, nepotism, discrimination (racial, gender) and sexual harassment. Questions of morality and ethics can be found at all levels of society. Ethical behaviour is equally important in the workplace as it is in our personal lives. Every place where business is conducted, ethics matter. A successful business depends on the trust of various parties such as employees, managers, executives, customers, suppliers and even competitors.

It should be noted that ethics is not just how we think and act, but rather it is also about character of individuals and the company as a whole. The actual norm is that each person has the ability to build, change or even destroy his or her own character. Character pertains to organisations, as well. A company with high character personalisation is worthy of trust and respect, acts honestly and stands by its promises. Having an ethical business culture will allow employees to put the work ahead of own interests, regardless of their individual ranks or roles within the company.

It is important for businesses to strive for business growth and success, but equal importance should be placed on establishing guidelines on how employees should behave, within the company. Ethical behaviour should be exercised all the time because it represents the values of the organisation. When companies are ethical, they are truthful and honest in all their transactions and that will translate to individual employees at workplaces. When the whole company applies ethical behaviour, they obtain the rewards of its beneficial and long-lasting effects. In other words, they will be able to retain highly talented employees and attract new ones if they uphold ethical behaviour in the organisation.

Ethics promote corporate governance in an organisation. Good corporate governance ensures that the company is working according to prescribed rules and regulations. The state of affairs of the company is transparently reported to its stakeholders such as shareholders, management and the government. When an organisation is ethical, it works in accordance to organisational goals, meeting the project deadlines, correct reporting of financial data and compliance with the regulatory authorities. Without ethics in place, internal control mechanisms would fail to achieve any meaningful goal. It’s very easy to see if an organisation upholds ethical standards and check if they abide by regulatory authorities set in that country.

In order to build a grounded ethical organisation, two cornerstones must be put in place and these are transparency and respect. In an organisation where trust is prevalent, information is accurate, timely and complete and workers share their ideas and concerns without any fear. Employees at all levels accept suggestions for ways to improve the work across the organisation. In an organisation where respect is a demonstrated value, employees and managers treat each other with dignity and make it known that they care about the work they perform. When an organisation takes issues of ethics with importance, individual differences and perspectives are appreciated and promoted.

Strive to create an ethical business culture

Organisations should strive to create an ethical organisational culture which includes how employees dress for work, how they interact with management and how they interact with customers and clients. They should create an environment where doing the right thing is easy and doing the wrong thing will get you disciplined or fired. In order to create an ethical business culture, employers should strive to eliminate double standards and cultivate trust among the team by being honest in their communications. This will then mean that there should not be policies that managers and supervisors are permitted to ignore, but which subordinates are required to follow.

Lastly, business ethics boils down to knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing to do what is right. Strong ethical business practices are a seal of a good company that you want to build and maintain in your small business. Build sound business practices by setting an ethical example and creating policies and procedures that govern the activities of your employees.

Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant/international recruitment expert and author. He writes in his own capacity: For comments inbox to emmanuelzvada@webmail.co.za or call +263771467441.

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