Showing posts with label ethics research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ethics research. Show all posts

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Formal and Cultural Influences in Successful Corporate Ethics Training

Ethics training is offered in most workplaces throughout the country in an effort to encourage compliance and the promotion of values. The principles learned within a corporate training session may be short lived without substantial cultural improvements that support appropriate values. A study by Warren, et. al. (2014) delves into the success of such corporate training to help determine whether they have real value or are only cosmetic by nature.  The report highlights the need to provide further support for ethics through cultural improvements.

In a perfect world people will hold ethical values regardless of the environment they traverse. The problem is we don’t live in a perfect world and have to deal with issues related to human behavior, motivation, and decision making. Corporate ethics training is designed to help support ethical behavior in the workplace by providing information on appropriate practices and avenues for reporting unethical behavior. 

The Theory of Responsive Regulation attempts to define regulations purpose and reach in influencing corporate decision making. Self-regulation of behavior is most important and formal controls should only be implemented when this self-regulation fails. A problem should exist before regulatory constraints are needed to curb unwanted corporate behavior. 

Training provides an avenue for formalizing workplace expectations as well as providing information on its legal structure. Strong programs are comprehensive and set a standard while weaker programs simply provide material to show they complied with legal requirements. Too often the benefits of these programs are short-lived as employees must deal with other workers, bosses, and environmental challenges that do not necessarily support ethical behavior. 

The actual environment employees work and live within will have the most profound impact on behavior as they must naturally make decisions based upon the options currently available to them. Work places that only pay lip service to ethics are unlikely to experience higher levels of ethical behavior unless stronger values are implemented into the culture that employees experience on a daily basis. 

The study found that within the first year of ethical training employees were able to discern ethical from unethical behavior.  In the second year they were able to discern differences less but still maintained positive residual benefits of ethics training. Corporate training should be followed by internalization of ethical values systems through cultural adaptation to ensure that results are long lasting. It is not enough to implement ethical training without adjusting the environment to strengthen positive behavioral outcomes.

Warren, D. et. al. (2014). Is formal ethics training merely cosmetic? A study of ethics training and ethical organization culture. Business Ethics Quarterly, 24 (1).

Monday, August 11, 2014

Standing for Business Ethics Relies on more than Simple Beliefs

Ethics may be more important today than it was in the past as international business brings new influences.  But despite its importance, it doesn’t mean standing up for ethics is likely in cases where unethical practices are regular occurrences. Research by Denise Baden (2014) helps define how positive and negative role models mixed with self-efficacy and descriptive norms help business members make ethical choices. The study encourages us to think about how our environment and self-beliefs impact our core decisions. 

Standing against unethical behavior is never easy as one must sometimes move against their social, political, and business networks. Even good people are paralyzed with fear of reprisals and retaliation. To most it is better to be silent and see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil when it comes to corporate unethical practices. 

Positive role models give an alternative to unethical behavior and provides a stronger context for another’s actions. Businesses that have positive ethical role models within their ranks can expect higher levels of ethical behavior from employees. Negative role models do the exact opposite and set an expectation that making money at all costs is important for success in life. 

Most behaviors are socially based and unethical workplaces prompt individuals into an “everyone is doing it” vantage point. Enron being an important reminder that only one person blew the whistle while many others tried to cover tracks. Self-efficacy is the ability of a person to withstand their social environment and make decisions based upon their core value systems even when it is necessary to go against a more powerful group. 

Another important mediator of successful ethical exchange is descriptive norms or beliefs. This varies from normative beliefs which help a person define how someone should act. Descriptive ethics is very basic and often rooted in the subconscious where personal values are deeply held and embedded. Because descriptive ethics touches the soul it is more powerful than any other ethical system based on social perception. 

Standing for ethics comes with personal costs. One can expect to be targeted, scrutinized, damaged, and sometimes rejected. In extreme cases where criminality is uncovered, their very life can be threatened. To expect people to stand up for their values in a toxic environment is nearly impossible without support. 

Negative role models damaged self-efficacy creating a situation whereby people do not feel empowered to act. Positive role models did the opposite and raised self-efficacy. To stand against unethical behavior when negative role models are present requires higher self-efficacy and a tapping of descriptive value systems. Negative role models increase cynicism and force behavioral controls with beliefs that business cannot be ethical so therefore no one should even try. 

Baden, D. (2014). Look on the bright side: a comparison of positive and negative role models in business ethics education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 13 (2).