Enforcing Ethical Standards at the Workplace

A Seven Step Approach for Solving On the Job Policy Violations

Once an organization has written out an ethics policy, what is the best way to enforce it? Larry Ruddell, an Associate Professor in Business at Houston Baptist University, is the author of Business Ethics – Faith That Works. In the book, Ruddell outlines a seven step approach for solving ethical problems at the workplace.

Realize That an Ethical Standard Has Been Violated

According to Ruddell, the first step in solving an ethical problem at the workplace is to realize that an ethical standard has been violated. This means that executives and managers must be constantly aware of what is going on within the organization and cannot ignore a violation in company policy regardless of who committed it.

Identify All the People Affected by the Ethical Violation

The second step in Ruddell’s model is to identify all of those who have been affected by the ethical violation. It is important to name each one involved in the policy infringement regardless of their status in the organization. When everyone has been located, the ethics enforcement team can proceed to the third step.

Gather All Pertinent Information Concerning the Ethical Problem

The third step in Ruddell’s scheme is to interview each participant to gather relevant information regarding the ethical violation. Obtaining all the related information is only possible when everyone cooperates. Getting each member to cooperate with the investigation can be a daunting task because violators may not want to admit the truth and their friends may not want to blow the whistle. Still, the incident cannot be resolved properly without all the pertinent data.

Analyze All the Information Fairly According to the Company’s Ethical Standards

Once the pertinent information has been listed out, the fourth step is to analyze the data. This is to be carried out in a manner that is consistent with the company’s ethics program and fair to all employees involved in the situation.

Make a Decision That is Consistent with the Organization’s Ethics Policies

The fifth step outlined by Ruddell is to make a decision that goes along with the preset ethic standards and policies. Ruddell points out that many organizations go through the motions to write out rules and regulations based on supposed core values, but that few follow through with them. When organizations do not follow through when violations occur, employees do not take those standards seriously and further problems occur.

Implement the Decision to Solve the Ethical Problem

Once a decision has been made it must be implemented. This is the sixth step in Ruddell’s plan. Implementation is where the rubber meets the road. Ruddell points out that carrying a plan to solve ethical problems must be done in an ethical way.

Discuss the Lessons Learned in Order to Improve the Ethics Program

The seventh and final step in solving an ethical problem is to discuss the lessons learned from the ordeal. The most profitable result of a policy violation is to use it to improve the ethics program and make the organization stronger.

By these seven steps, executives and managers can effectively enforce an ethics program.

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