Ethical Guidelines are Essential

With the recent headlines and the rise of the #MeToo movement, ethical guidelines have become a necessity no matter what type of organization you represent.  Businesses, associations and nonprofits owe it to themselves and to their employees to set a standard of conduct that reflects the values of their organization.

If you do not have a published set of guidelines than put a stake in the ground, develop them and commit to them.  These guidelines are a outgrowth of your corporate values.  And, values are the foundation of an organization that sets the tone for how you conduct business.  No matter whether you are a new business or have a 100-year history behind you, it is imperative that your values reflect your organization today. Traditional values such as integrity, respect, honesty are as “tried and true” today as they ever were so don’t shy away from adopting them, if they aren’t a stated part of your organization.  But, you must mean them; they cannot be empty words!

Other values are also important to demonstrate your true commitment to making your company a great place to work and a respected part of the business community.  Choose other values that reflect what your organization stands for and expects to stand for many years ahead. Sustainability, for example, has become another value that pops up frequently today in light of the increased focused on corporate social responsibility.  

Talk with your employees, board of directors and industry suppliers about your corporate values.  Their perspectives can provide insight about how your business is already perceived.  They create your ethical guidelines.  Once you have a draft, talk with the same group about them.  Do you have buy-in?  If not, then work with them to tweak or re-write as appropriate.  If you cannot come to consensus, then I suggest you bring in an independent facilitator to help you develop them. Once complete, keep them visible at all times in your office, on your website, employee manual and in marketing media.  They are your mantra and you should be proud of them. 

Practice will never make perfect.  But, it will require you, as the leader of your organization, to practice your values and enforce your ethical guidelines consistently.  Also, be prepared to deal with those associates who don’t follow your guidelines. Ask yourself whether they are working for you or against you.  Then, it will be apparent whether they are a good fit for your organization.

Over the years, your ethical guidelines are a good barometer to check your commitment to your corporate values.