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Ethical Behavior in the Workplace

2023-11-24

How do you promote ethical behavior in the workplace?

This is a question facing leaders and employees around the world, and discussed by Dr. Jeff Suderman in the courses he teaches at LCC. Dr. Suderman has taught in LCC’s MA IM program since it began in 2014. In addition to being a professor, Dr. Suderman is the owner and CEO of Suderman Solutions, a management consulting firm that serves the education, non-profit, and business sectors.  Dr. Suderman is a futurist, passionate about improving personal, organizational, and board performance. His vision as a “pracademic” is to practically apply contemporary business principles to real-life organizational issues. As professor of the courses, Dr. Suderman shares a wealth of experience and knowledge with students, which is evidenced in his article below.

Three areas of ethical behavior in the workplace

By Dr. Jeff Suderman

Few of us would disagree that ethical behavior is important in the workplace. Yet how we do this is a much more challenging discussion! Below are three practical ways to foster a stronger ethical work culture, which answers the question “What are three areas of ethical behavior in the workplace?”

1.       Visible Moral Symbols.

Research published in the Academy of Management Journal revealed that individuals who have visible moral symbols in their workspace facilitate stronger ethical conduct. A virtuous quote, a religious image or a moral sign serve as visible reminders – both to yourself and more specifically, to those you work with – that ethical behavior is important. Google’s value, “Don’t do evil” is a great example of this (though you could debate if this has shifted in their value change from “Don’t do evil” to “Do the right thing”). Before you try this, remember to consider the cultural nuances involved in doing this effectively!

2.       Public Ovation.

In Trust Factor, Paul J. Zak provides fascinating evidence that connects trust development with activities that release oxytocin (something our body produces which makes us both trust others more and become more trustworthy). In short, Zak teaches that creating moments that release oxytocin will build trust. Since trust is a foundational moral value (partially developed by congruence between what we say and what we do), we have opportunity to deepen trust by facilitating oxytocin-inducing moments. Public praise (or what Zak refers to as ovation) is an effective way to do this. When you catch someone doing the right thing, create a moment of public praise (which also serves as a Visible Moral Symbol!).

3.       Decrease the Gap.

Ethics is a combination of two things: what we believe, and, what we do. Inevitably, there will be a gap between them! Effective leaders continually work to decrease their gap. Doing so increases trust and a climate for ethical behavior. One effective (and humbling) way to decrease the gap is to become a person who regularly asks for feedback. In Thanks for the Feedback (Even When It’s Off-base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, and Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood), Stone and Heen remind us that research shows we all have 3.2 blind spots. This sobering fact should change the way you live! It also provides a practical method by which to decrease the gap!

Successful organizations do more than pay lip-service to the need to act ethically. These three practices can help turn what you believe into what your organization does.

Author: Jeff Suderman, D.SL., MA IM Adjunct Associate Professor at LCC International University

Sources:

Jena McGregor (2015). Promoting more ethical behavior. LA Times, 2015.

Dr. Henry Cloud (2006). Integrity: The courage to meet the demands of reality. Harper Business.

Additional notes on Dr. Jeff Suderman

Dr. Suderman earned his Doctorate in Strategic Leadership at Regent University (Virginia) and his M.A. Leadership degree at Trinity Western University (British Columbia, Canada) where he was awarded the Canadian Governor General’s Gold Medal Award for Academic Excellence. He will be teaching the MA IM course MGT 590 Leadership & Ethics in Business Strategy scheduled for the January 2024 term which is open to Guest Students.

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