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HR Careers: How Vital is Ethics in the Workplace?

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A recent survey revealed that job seekers consider corporate ethics vital to their job searches. These people spend ample time researching prospective employers prior to accepting new jobs. No employee would risk associating his or her name with a company whose ethics are questionable. In today’s era of laissez faire, only the fittest employees will survive. Amidst insurmountable pressures, ethics often takes a backseat to aspirations. Nevertheless, many employers, through HR executives, create ethics guidelines. The success of such attempts, however, rests with the employees, whose views on their organizations’ treatment of employees hold the key to successful implementation.

However, ethics is also a double-edged sword. If an employee demands that the company should maintain good principles, the employer must be on the lookout for a display of the highest moral values in the employee. The onus, in this instance, lies with the HR professional, who must act as the watchdog safeguarding the company’s reputation. How, then, does a beleaguered HR professional tackle this problem?

Lead Rather Than Be Led

Fostering an ethical workplace culture can often be very complicated for HR executives because companies must also be profitable In today’s profit-oriented work culture, even the best intentions may get overlooked in the drive towards financial success. Therefore, to improve their workplaces’ ethical standards, HR executives, throughout their HR careers, should persuade management to make ethics an agenda. In the workplace, HR executives can influence employees to behave within ethical frameworks in two ways: by being clear on what acceptable behavior is and is not and, on a more personal level, practicing what they say. But, as leaders, HR executives should, at the onset, establish clear credos on acceptable behavior from employees to minimize complications.

Don’t Just Preach-Act

The first step for HR executives is to set a fundamental rule in place: nobody is above the company. This way, the fair-towards-all attitude of the company will encompass everyone-from the lowest position to the CEO of the company-within one common principle. This will also help the company and its employees benefit from a transformed view on ethics within the context of profitability.

Small Measures Count

Another vital aspect, when trying to develop or maintain workplace ethics, is for HR executives to let employees achieve balances between work and their personal lives. This creates win-win situations. Companies will boost productivity with satisfied employees, and employees will display enhanced moralities and gain from heightened reputations by encouraging ethics-based profitability drives. Inexpensive programs that help employees maintain balances between work and their personal lives such as flextime and telecommuting, among other programs, go a long way. A happy and satisfied employee will not engage in unethical practices or prove to be an obstacle to establishing ethics in the workplace.

Set Guidelines for Everyone

HR executives have to hunt for possible explanations for ethical crises in their workplaces. This will make the HR executive weigh the quality and effectiveness of the corporate, as well as human resources, leadership. Endorsement of unethical means is also being unethical. If an HR leader at an unethical company agrees to look the other way when employees, claiming that the company’s behavior is disloyal, commit similar acts of disloyalty, the HR executive is also implicated in the unethical deed. Remember, passive compliance to unethical standards is a mark of a lack of ethical standards in the HR executive.

The going is tough for HR executives who decide to begin ethical careers in unethical surroundings. With more and more companies getting their hands dirtied in murky dealings, the role of the HR executive, a.k.a. his or her HR career, has become a virtual firing wall. If the HR executive is steadfast in maintaining ethical practices at any cost, he or she runs the risk of being professionally sacrificed-his or her entire HR career may be jeopardized. However, if the HR executive, as a leader, establishes guidelines that apply to everyone, including the HR executive, any issues that may arise can be straightened out by the HR executive before they get out of hand. If the finger points to the top chair in the company, as the corporate watchdog, the HR executive should bring it to public notice. If the HR executive fears retribution or is willing to allow the complaint to be compartmentalized, the repercussions of the HR executive’s irresponsible behavior will heavily affect his or her career. He or she will always be considered management’s mouthpiece rather than a true employee benefactor.
On the net:Integrating Values and Ethics into HR and Business Planning
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