How to Develop an Ethics Culture in Your Small Business

Focus on employee relationships to develop a strong ethical business culture. (Image:  pixabay /  CC0 1.0)
Focus on employee relationships to develop a strong ethical business culture. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Having a strong culture based on ethics is crucial in developing a long-lasting business. Only then will small businesses retain high-quality employees and maintain productivity at peak levels. To develop an ethical culture in your office, try out the following ideas.

Focus on personal relationships

Because a small business has fewer employees, it becomes easy to develop and enforce an ethical framework. The employees will be closer to each other and the entire workforce will be a tight-knit unit. As a consequence, employees will be more attentive to behaving in an ethical manner since they won’t want to lose face in front of others when caught doing something wrong.

“Small businesses thrive on personal relationships. When those relationships are strong and the customer feels well-served, the trust will be high. But if there is an issue within a small business, it occurs at a personal level that can damage trust at an organizational level… In a smaller organization, you can take a more personal approach to shape your ethical culture… Leadership may have a more direct connection to the employee population simply by virtue of the smaller size of the organization. It can be easier to align the team around a common purpose and set of values,” Katie Lawler, Chief Ethics Officer for U.S. Bank, said to Forbes.

Write down the rules

It is important that you write down the ethical rules that need to be followed at the office. Just reading the rules to employees and verbally agreeing to it is not enough.

Write down the rules. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

You must get the employees to sign the document that lists the rules. This puts pressure on the workers to adhere to regulations as they have personally agreed to follow them. Prepare a big poster outlining the ethical rules and place it on the wall where everyone in the office can see it often.

No double standards

Ethics will only be followed if the rules are equally applied to everyone. If employees feel that some people are being given preference over others, the ethical foundation of the business will develop cracks. If an employee does something wrong and the punishment warrants termination, then the owner must lay off that employee no matter how close they were personally. Allowing relationships and emotions to cloud judgment is how ethical rules get bent for the benefit of a few. A good leader must always ensure that there are no double standards when treating employees.

Reward performance

An easy way to develop an ethical culture is by rewarding employees for their performance. A study on employee rewards found that such incentives ended up motivating workers to perform better. But when the rewards were delayed, employees felt less motivated to give it their best. When workers feel that their efforts are rewarded, they will be more willing to abide by the ethical framework of the business.

Set an example

If the business is run by an owner who does not gain the respect of employees, then that business is not going to last for long. By having integrity in everything you do, fulfilling promises, making decisions impartially, and appropriately rewarding employees according to their performance, an owner gains respect.

Be the leader employees respect and the business will maintain its ethics culture. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

 The employees will start feeling a sense of pride in working for such an individual. As a consequence, they will strictly adhere to the ethical rules of their own volition. So, be an example of what you expect from your employees and they will more than likely act in an ethical manner your business requires.

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