Organisational Ethics

DOES ETHICS MATTER?

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy.

And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.” Warren Buffet

We have become accustomed to news headlines exposing some prominent figures, private and public entities as being involved in some illegal and/or unethical conduct.

It is easier to identify illegal conduct than it is to identify unethical conduct. Some common examples of unethical conduct include the disclosure of confidential information, conflict of interests, breach of privacy, dishonesty and failure to display the required level of competence.

For more examples and workplace scenarios have a look at this video

Accountants, auditors, attorneys, nurses, doctors and journalists are just some of the professions which have been flagged for unethical conduct.

These professions which are required and expected to conduct themselves to the highest ethical standard have in the recent past fallen short of the required standard.

Our e-learning module on Organisational Ethics aims to breach the gap that has led to an increase in unethical conduct.

We educate and engage with learners on ways in which we can create and maintain ethical workplaces.

Our module begins by contextualizing ethics, i.e. defining it and discussing its elements.

We focus on the role that non-executive employees, and in particular middle managers, need to play to support the organisation’s efforts of embedding an ethical culture.

Finally, we look at the role played by whistleblowers and what measures need to be taken to encourage whistleblowers to report unethical conduct. We look at the rights of whistleblowers in terms of the Protected Disclosures Act.

What we see in this video are the devastating consequences that follow when an organisation fails to develop and maintain an ethical culture!

WHAT ARE ETHICS?

Ethics are concerned with decision making. It involves moral choices of what is right or wrong, good and bad. Such choices are determined by values, relevant laws, rules, regulations and even leadership. (SABPP,2015)

Organisational values guide the organisation towards the desired ethical culture. Some of the values that feature prominently in many organisations’ policies are, Integrity, Respect, Fairness, Responsibility, Competence and Accountability (“Ethical Values”).

These values guide people in the manner in which they conduct themselves at the workplace and importantly in the manner in which they engage with colleagues and other stakeholders. 

When employees do not know what their organisation’s values are, they apply their own personal moral values and this often leads to the wrong actions or decisions being taken.

We use various illustrative visual aids such as the video above to help learners grasp the subject matter. In this Clinic video, we are introduced to a junior nurse who notices that the doctor is not complying with the Covid-19 protocols by not wearing his mask properly. The doctor ignores the junior nurse’s advice that he wear his mask properly only because she is junior to him and probably also because she is a nurse and not a doctor like him. The doctor fails to take accountability for his actions even when confronted by a colleague. Accountability is an important value which every organisation must promote.  There are several Ethical Values that are missing and/or have not been applied in the Clinic. Could you identify them?