Managing Organizational Ethics
Reflection on Personal Reading IV
Leadership requires a particular kind of role and moral relationships between people. By understanding the ethics of leadership we gain better knowledge of what constitutes good leadership. A leader doesn't just run a company. He reflects the ethical values of the company in his own behavior and demonstrates them in the people with whom he chooses to surround himself. He sets the lifestyle and the customs, as well as the ethics of the company, and sets an example for the lives of his employees and perhaps even his customers. It is not enough for the leader to be ethical, he is responsible for making the company and the people in it develop and live well. Managing the moral environment is one of the greatest challenges of leadership.
I had the privilege of working for a great leader, let's call him Mr. C. I have to say, without any doubt, that he was the one that helped me define and develop strong moral standards, made me be less focused on the traditional priorities and take into account the ethical considerations of my actions. Even though ethics have a huge impact on the modern life and society, it is hard to agree on a universally set of rules, absolute standards or firm reference points. It is just too broad of an area; therefore we have to individually develop our own ideas about what it means, its methods and all the implications.
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In today's workplace, we are all under intense pressure to finish the job faster and possibly with fewer resources. It is the leader's job to continually motivate and challenge the employees to perform at their best. I remember one time I was on a very tight schedule, the job goals were pretty aggressive, the expectations in general were set really high, with a constant demand for continuous improvement. It was very tempting to slide into unethical behavior that would have offset the rewards of high performance. Being ethical just seemed to be too risky, nobody can afford to lose a job nowadays so I thought that making that sale at any cost was the only choice for me. I mean, who wants to say no to his boss? I then realized that Mr. C. created candor in the workplace, he wanted to know how much was enough or whether the targets were totally unrealistic. The employees felt that there was trust between them and the management, a safe atmosphere was created, so there was no risk in bringing up tough issues. Therefore I sat down with Mr. C. and expressed my concerns about meeting the deadlines and making the numbers in general. He acknowledged the fact that I was a good worker with great potential, who was trying to do his best and he teamed me up with one of the senior employees. By doing this he was trying to ensure that I had the resources and knowledge to get the job done and to also hone my skills. We then analyzed the goals and set different targets which made me feel empowered to have an effect on the work process and to be involved in the goal setting. By adopting this solution, Mr. C. significantly reduced the pressure for unethical business practice, while enhancing trust and teamwork.
I remember another instance when Mr. C.'s approach of candor and straightforwardness avoided further misunderstandings. One of my colleagues was analyzing suppliers, trying to evaluate them and look for better ones. Mr. C. asked him to take a look at another supplier, one of his favorites, which he used a lot before. His informal request created some ethical pressure on his employee, who was facing conflicting goals- on one hand he was trying to pursue the lowest total cost, on the other hand he wanted to satisfy his boss and felt obligated to follow his recommendation. Since we were all free to speak up, my colleague followed our open door policy and returned to Mr. C. asking for clarification. He explained to him how he placed great importance on what he believed or perceived management wanted, but he was also trying to get the right message. It turned out that Mr. C. had no preference whatsoever, therefore we chose the supplier that provided the lowest cost. This is a good example of great communication in the workplace that can prevent many ethical pressures and other issues and concerns.
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Mr. C. knew what he valued. He recognized the importance of ethical behavior, exhibiting both his values and his ethics in his leadership style and actions. His leadership ethics and values were visible because he lived them in his actions every single day. He was trying to set values that would not push people on the unethical route. One aspect of the business activity he tried to avoid was the emphasizing of the win-lose situations. He considered that people create a loser every time they create a winner. This situation is unproductive and could unintentionally damage relationships. Since there are so many instances in life when our objective is to be regarded as the winner, people might be tempted to overlook the moral guidelines, in order to avoid emerging from a situation as the loser. In our business relationships we might be creating losers too, therefore it is very important to continue to show respect and guard the dignity of all team members. The result of us failing to do so could result in damaged relationships that will restrain our ability to work as a team in the future.
It happened that I was the loser one time, and I understood the negative impact this situation carries with it. One could see effects in his productivity and attendance, or in the way he interacts with the other team members; it is like a cancer that slowly eats away your relationships. Mr. C. came to my rescue again. He was always praising us in public and criticizing us in private. By treating me with respect and dignity he made me walk away somewhat a winner, and ready to enhance my business relationships.
One of the problems in many workplaces is the lack of trust. When the leader doesn't identify his values, we have mistrust, since people don't know what to expect. When the leader identified and shared his values, living these values daily will create trust. On the other hand, by saying one thing and doing another, he will damage trust. Similarly, leaders that exhibit a powerful ethical behavior will influence the actions of others.
Being ethical is not about trying to impose your own views and standards on your peers, it is more like being fair. That means understanding the implications from not only your own perspective, but from the other people's too. The more you appreciate your team members' issues, the easier it will be for you to be ethical.
Honest Work- Joanne Ciulla