For Ethical Behavior, You Need The Right Environment
The recent Wells Fargo debacle, in which 5,300 employees opened over a million fraudulent accounts, is only one of the recent corporate scandals that seem to be increasingly common. 41% of employees say that they’ve seen something unethical in the past year, and 10% reported feeling pressured to compromise ethical standards.
What causes such ethical failures? According to Ron Carucci, best-selling author and co-founder of the coaching firm Navalent, organizations create environments that may cause employees to behave unethically. Carucci outlines 5 reasons why employees might make unethical choices due to organizational culture.
- There isn’t enough psychological safety for them to speak up. If your organization has an open-door policy, make sure you mean it. Employees may feel unsafe speaking up for two reasons: they feel like it’s futile, or they’re afraid of a bad reaction or even retribution. Employees should feel that their opinions are welcome, and leaders should take concerns seriously.
- Unrealistic goals are creating too much pressure. Setting the bar impossibly high can cause employees to go into “loss prevention” mode, in which they’ll focus on accomplishing the goal by any means necessary, even unethical ones. This behavior can stem from fear of losing their job, and cause people to cut corners or lie about progress. Leaders should make sure that employees have everything they need to meet a goal – including time – and not set unrealistic expectations.
- Employees are getting a sense of unfairness. Research shows that sense of fairness is correlated with a conscious choice to sabotage the company. Employees may perceive unfairness if the company puts forth conflicting goals.
- You aren’t talking about it enough. Conversations about ethics should be introduced in daily activities and proceedings, not just brushed over once a year. Go over what constitutes ethical behavior as well as what’s considered unethical, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
- You aren’t leading by example. Leaders and managers need to act carefully. Make sure that you’re not only behaving ethically, but that your actions are being interpreted by your employees as ethical. If you lead by example, others will follow.