|Are you scratching beneath the surface of ethical governance|
|Our experience of working with a variety of global organisations from public to private sectors, government, to voluntary organisations in developed and developing countries exposes us to many standards and applications of ethical governance.
How many organisations recognise that business ethics, values and standards play an important role in supporting sustainable business partnerships and customer interactions? Some will publicise a corporate code of conduct to provide guidance to staff on how to respond to ethical dilemmas however, very few provide training to develop staff on the meaning and application of codes of conduct.
Scandals, corruption & high profile cases are just the tip of the iceberg
The increase in negative publicity related to high profile cases of questionable corporate behaviour may lead us to believe that ethical governance issues have little relevance to what we do day, to day, and that publicity only impacts individuals in privileged positions whose work accountabilities and morals have become blurred and whose exposure to public scrutiny is normal. Quite often unethical behaviours can arise as a result of the belief and determination to drive an agenda through that those involved become blind to the impact of their behaviour on others. At a time of reorganization, increased competition, uncertainty, budget & service cuts, it is essential that ethical values and standards support front line service delivery.
Does the ‘code of conduct’ guide me when making an ethical decision?
Publishing a code of business ethics is a significant achievement in itself; getting staff buy in to the potential change of behaviour and how that really impacts service delivery is quite another matter. In today’s multicultural business environment we work alongside individuals with different attitudes and beliefs about what is ethical business practice. Being confronted with a moral choice brings the cultural context of interpretation and the ethical consideration together. Establishing what constitutes “an ethical dilemma” in different cultures can be difficult without dialogue aimed at understanding what would present an ethical conflict in one culture but not necessarily in another.
While ethical systems, such as those of the West and the Middle East, usually have much in common, there also can be significant areas of conflict when it comes to business practices. As a result, we may find that business practices acceptable in one place may be unacceptable in another. Examples of areas that are rife with potential ethical conflicts include hiring practices, workers rights, women’s role in the workplace, internet access and child labour.
The role of “wasta”
There are other important Middle East customs that are based, the cultural traditions of the region. One such way of doing business that is ingrained in the social life and economy of the Middle East is called ‘wasta’, the Arabic word for clout, connections, influence, pull or favouritism. In many Middle Eastern companies, family and social networks can take priority in business decisions, including who gets hired and promoted. While our connections can also play a role in Western business most Western employers hire, and promote employees based on the individual’s skills and performance. As a result, wasta is likely to be seen by Westerners as, favouritism, or nepotism.
It’s never too late to consider development of a strategic approach to ethical governance
Ethical Governance Starts Here – Read on.......
Before your rush into your legal department to seek guidance on policy development; consider the purpose and protocol of your code of conduct
o is it simply a communication to generate compliance,
o what data and information should it contain, and
o how will the data and information be presented
o Will the words and information in your code of conduct generate the behavioural change required?
There is a HUGE GAP between the presentation of data and information and employee understanding of what is required for behaviour change. Information paralysis can overwhelm employees. Your code of conduct is just one element of your strategy; it should support and enable ethical decision making.
Approach the development of your ethical governance strategy in a coordinated manner. Often we allocate responsibility by subject matter, so, our IT department would take responsibility for email abuse, contracts and legal departments may take responsibility for conflicts of interest, our HR departments manage dismissals or disciplinary actions. This often creates confusion for employees who receive fragmented information from many directions. To ensure clarity and continuity set up a focus group of representatives from those departments and keep communications simple. Employees need to know:
What is it?
Why is it important?
How does it apply to me?
If I were demonstrating this behaviour what form would it take?
Provide training that is realistic, consistent with culture, policy, and procedure and develops the competencies to respond to the ethical behaviours required in the work that we do every day. Training presented in the form of a monologue is passive and will not generate the confidence required to transfer skills. Ensure training uses an appropriate approach and encourages individuals to try out new ideas and take managed risks without fear of blame. Provide constructive feedback if things go wrong.
While I leave you to think through the issues, our next article will focus on identifying leadership competencies required to ensure ethical governance is embedded at the core of what we deliver.....more next time.
|Contributor: Joy Wilson @ http://www.spectrain.co.uk|
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