In the first two parts of this assignment, a code of ethics was developed, which was largely aimed at combating deceptiveness in marketing and sales. It placed a heavy emphasis on honesty and straightforwardness in a highly competitive market known for its sleight-of-hand. Its purpose was twofold: first, the code of ethics should lead to comfortable and open relationships with clients and customers, helping the company’s image and customer satisfaction in general while reducing the potential for the negative repercussions associated with deceptive or dishonest practices, such as bad press or costly and time-consuming litigation. Second, it will boost morale by reassuring employees that their honesty is valued, serving as a reminder of the positive impact our business has on the lives of our clients, and providing a means for rewarding positive behavior. This will make our business stronger from top to bottom: after all, “people perform when they believe they are a part of something they can be proud of” (Coyne, 2007).
However, there is more to implementing a code of ethics than simply drafting it. It is, unfortunately, quite common in our business for employees to be presented with a code of ethics when they are hired, sign it, and never think about it again. How then can we create a situation in which our new code of conduct becomes an implicit and foundational part of our corporate culture—especially, when this code requires a substantial change in practice?
Perhaps the simplest answer is: leadership. “The code should be practiced and promoted by management to lead the way for the staff” (Queensland Government, 2012). Indeed, empirical research corroborates this claim, indicating that the behavior of those in leadership positions can have a significant impact on the adoption of a code of ethics into corporate culture. Adam & Rachmann-Moore (2004)write that their “results indicate that the informal methods (‘manager sets an example’ […] are likely to yield greater commitment with respect to […] employee attitudes than the formal method […]”. Conversely, failure by management to adopt the norms outlined in the new code of ethics would seriously undermine the effort as a whole. No employee will feel a responsibility to adhere to the new code if his/her manager does not; indeed, he might interpret such a situation as an indication that he is expected to disregard the code in the interest of maximizing profit—even though the code was created in part to do just that. Management can have a profound impact with respect to defining and redefining the social norms underlying corporate culture and professional practices.
That said, formal practices will need to be adopted in order to initially introduce the new code to current employees, as well as to introduce it continuously to new hires (Murphy, 1998). First, before the code is finalized, it is important to circulate it throughout the organization, giving everyone the opportunity to give feedback and suggest changes. This will increase the legitimacy of the code once it is implemented: it will have the atmosphere of a communal endeavor, rather than simply a list of rules decreed by the faceless, detached bureaucracy. Once the code is finalized, all employees will be asked to sign a copy. Further formal methods of implementation may be initiated as required, including theoretical and scenario-based training with respect to our code specifically and business ethics in general. It is a question whether such training be deemed necessary or beneficial, however, it will become a part of our induction procedure for new hires.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to create a corporate culture in which ethical behavior is not just the norm, but a conscious part of each employee’s daily tasks. Unethical behavior should not merely be sanctioned, but ethical behavior—especially in tricky situations—should be rewarded. Throughout this process—from the implementation of training procedures to the informal adoption of the code’s tenets into daily practice—the comportment of those in leadership positions will be critical to its success.