The ethics of an organization and the organization’s values determine how the organization responds to events that take place within or outside of the organization. Organizational ethics is a code of conduct that expresses the value of the organization to the organization’s employees. The ethics and values adopted by any organization are generally internal policies and differ from laws and government regulation. Different professional organizations also have ethics codes that govern how members conduct business.
Many organizations have a written code of ethics document that employees must sign. Depending on the size of the organization, this document may contain information about the ethics, codes and standards of the organization. This document may also express the values of the organization and how these values should influence the organization’s operation. The document may also include a mission statement and any policies dictating consequences for violation of the codes contained in the document.
Confidentiality is a key protection an organization must recognize for individuals who report a code of conduct violation to the organization. When a violation or breach of the code of conduct or ethical values of the organization occurs, it is essential that the organization has in place a reporting mechanism that safeguards the whistleblower. Only authorized personnel within the organization should have access to privileged, confidential or private information about the violation. Ethical value violations involve sensitive information that can create divisions in organizations when confidentiality is not protected.
When implementing organizational ethics and value policies for the first time, the organization should distribute the new policies to all employees. The organization should emphasize enforcement, making sure all employees understand the new policies and ethical values of the organization and the consequences for violating these new policies. Further, all employees should have awareness of their obligations to carry out this new code of conduct. This includes reporting other individuals in the company that exhibit unethical conduct.
Rules and Codes of Conduct
The specific code of conduct will depend on the type of organization. The values you have as an owner or individual responsible for enacting the codes will influence the direction of the organization’s ethical values and codes. In some organizations, this code applies not only to internal behavior, but also to conduct outside of the organization. Organizations should make their code of conduct document a living document reviewed periodically to adapt to the changing world.