How to communicate ethics to employees (hint: delicately)

Most employees have cheated in one way or another in their lives. How can you discuss ethics with without seeming like schoolmarms?

At least that’s what author Margaret Heffernan contends in a post at, in which she outlines the difficulties that poses for bosses who want to build ethical workplaces.

“I’m pretty sure that treating everyone like criminals isn’t a constructive form of vigilance,” Heffernan wrote.

So what’s an executive to do? Ethicists and company leaders advise taking a subtle approach.

Leading by example

Mitchell Weiss, adjunct professor of finance at the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business and principal at consulting firm M.D. Weiss, says ethics, like many things, flow downhill.

“As much as we bring our prior experiences and genetic inclinations to the job, I also believe ethical behavior can be influenced through observation,” he says. “One of senior management’s most important responsibilities is to set the proper tone for the rest of company. In other words, ‘Do as I do.'”

Leo von Wendorff, CEO of Virtual Knowledge Workers, says employees aren’t going to want to be ethical if they don’t view their employers as having a similar interest in doing what’s right.

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.