Creating ethical organizational cultures




As leaders, we have two challenges when acting with integrity. The first is to demonstrate integrity on a personal level. The other is to help ensure an organizational culture that demonstrates integrity. I reviewed some articles on the topic. Here’s a summary of the key points.

Leaders are visible role models. When employees see leaders acting out their values, it sets the tone for the whole organization. Creating and maintaining standards, for themselves and others, is a key to maintaining organizational ethics.

Ethical expectations are clear and employees understand them.  New employees need to learn the organization’s values. All employees need training to practice applying those values. For example, MnSCU has an online Code of Conduct training course for all new employees.  As leaders, we could ask our staff members to review the course and then discuss key points during a staff meeting.

Rewards and recognition reflect the organization’s espoused values. There should be clear alignment between what the organization says it wants and what is recognized as successful behavior. For example, consider ways to publicly acknowledge individuals and teams with accomplishments such as providing services to underrepresented students or finding new ways to use limited resources.

Pepperdine University proposed the following formula to describe organizational ethics.

Virtuous Values + Aligned Action + Behavioral Standards/Codes –> Increased Ethical Behavior

How do you apply this with your teams?

Dee Anne Bonebright


Workplace Psychology: Creating an Ethical Organizational Culture

Pepperdine University, Graziadio Business Review: Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Workplace Culture

Society for HR Management (SHRM): Creating an Ethical Workplace




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