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Ethical practice - Lesson 3: your reflections

Welcome to the online community learning space for the lesson: Challenging unethical behaviour. Use this forum to discuss the community reflective activity in the lesson. Read the contributions of others, ‘liking’ those you find helpful and add your unique reflections to the conversation by replying to this post. Click here to return to the lesson page at any time.

Reflective community activity:
The CIPD’s report ‘The People Profession in 2018’ shows that 28% felt it was often necessary to compromise ethical values to succeed in their company. What advice would you give to a new employee who witnesses such behaviour?

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  • I don't think any employee new or old should feel they have to do something unethical in order to succeed. If you are able to raise this with the correct people then always do so but if it seems the issues are bigger and throughout the business it may not be where you want to work and grow your career.
  • In reply to Laura:

    I agree noone should feel that an unethical compromise is a solution for success. I would advise them to speak to a senior member of staff, if it was an organisational stance then I would be looking at moving to another organisation.
  • My suggestion would be to talk to someone that they feel they can trust. This could be someone within their team, their manager or perhaps a colleague. However, this may not always be feasible and sadly there are instances, thinking of the 'rotten apple vs the rotten barrel', where this unethical behaviour may be repeated.
    The CIPD forums have had some great examples over the years of people discussing ethical challenges and the fellow members have often offered empathy and practical advice.
  • Has anyone highlighted their concerns direct with the person? Has it made them see it differently? Curious if anyone has been in this situation and can share how they managed it, what worked, what didn't?

  • In reply to Laura:

    Absolutely agree with you, Laura, nobody should ever be put in the position where they feel they have to compromise their ethics. Sometimes, unethical practices can be so deeply embedded throughout the organisation that it makes it difficult to know who to approach if you feel that something is not quite right and also difficult to know who you can trust.

    As you say, if practices that compromise your professional integrity seem to be embedded throughout the organisation, moving on is often the only option.
  • In reply to Emma:

    Thank you for flagging up the forums, Emma. It's good to know that within the CIPD forums there is an area in which people can raise issues anonymously and ask for guidance from other professionals without revealing their identity or their organisation: www.cipd.co.uk/.../ - I'm sure this will help lots of people.
  • In reply to Michelle Battista:

    In an organisation that I worked with in the past, I raised an issue quite a few times directly with my then manager, unfortunately, the concerns were not taken seriously and raising the issue didn't make the individual see things differently at all. Ultimately, due to wider implications, I escalated the issue, raising the concerns with my manager's manager. It definitely wasn't ideal, but necessary given the circumstances.

    Did the escalation work? To some extent, yes. The issue was eventually addressed and improved, however, it caused a rift between myself and the manager who had not taken my concerns seriously initially.

    Lessons learnt:
    1) If you raise an issue directly, you won't always get the response you are hoping for - be prepared to escalate if necessary.
    2) Seek official reporting channels if directly addressing an individual does not help.
    3) Don't ever compromise your ethics or professional integrity - if you are convinced that you have valid concerns, raise the issue (even if it means causing a rift in relationships).
  • For me, dealing with this this begins during an organisations recruitment and onboarding processes. Senior leaders should visibly, from the outset establish a zero tolerance toward unethical behaviour. The proposed panacea being one of walking the talk, I suppose.

    In regard of advising a new employee, I wouldn't. I would help my colleague by showing them what to do. Ethical behaviour includes role modelling as a core principle. I'll resist the urge to quote Peter Drucker.

  • I recently carried out induction training for new managers which covered this topic and linked this to one of our organisation's core values and behaviours - 'do what matters the most'. For example, my advice would be for the individual to decide if they would feel comfortable to challenge the unethical behaviour themselves (depending on severity of the situation) or to consider other options, such as speaking to their line manager or HR (if they did not feel comfortable speaking to their manager) and sign post them to the company policy/procedure.
  • In reply to Joanna:

    I have worked in a company where recruiting external staff was the way forward. Existing employees had no training, development plans, appraisals, nothing, even though most of them wanted to develop, learn and take that next step. Whenever someone approached a manager to "challenge" the decision, it was not even considered. Jobs were never advertised internally on board, and if someone found out from internet, that position would have already been filled. Taking it with HR was a long way, we've never seen one in the place of work and all had to go through head office. When employee heard the word head office, that's when they back down, as it meant calling them, explain the situation on the phone, then they'll contact the same manager etc
    There was only one way, and that was to move on for majority of us who wanted more.
  • In case you haven't yet seen these I thought it would be useful to share the link to a three-part webinar series CIPD are delivering on ethical practice at work in March and April 2020. Click here to find out more www.cipd.co.uk/.../ethics-at-work-webinars
  • In reply to Michelle Battista:

    I recall pointing out to my line manager the unethical approach he was taking with the Pay Review budget. Given the approach was pretty obviously out of kilter with the business's core values meant I felt comfortable challenging it unemotionally & promptly. My line manager instantly changed his view & we looked at the approach again. I think some of the specifics here made this admittedly easier to challenge - the clear contradiction with company values couldn't be disputed & made the unemotional, direct challenge very easy in this instance to deliver, meaning the conversation was had within the framework of a conversation about Pay Review as opposed to a separate conversation at a later date following consideration on my part framed within a conversation about my concerns about Pay Review if that makes any sense. My line manager often said he prides himself on being a 'straight shooter' so was actually very grateful for the steer & just hadn't recognised how his initial approach could be construed as unethical

    I know this example is perhaps circumstantially very specific & not necessarily useful to everyone, but I do hope it serves to illustrate that whilst some challenges may require persuasion & influence on your part in challenging unethical behaviour, pointing it out may be something the other party finds useful, as it was unintentional
  • In reply to Michelle Battista:

    Hi, I have been working in a company where disagrement and commientment was one of the principles, and working as HRBP, the site leader expected from my site was that, challenge him to think different all the time. Adapt the policies and rules to our own site. Everyday was a challenge.
  • In reply to Michelle Battista:

    Hi, I have been working in a company where disagrement and commientment was one of the principles, and working as HRBP, the site leader expected from my site was that, challenge him to think different all the time. Adapt the policies and rules to our own site. Everyday was a challenge.
  • In reply to Michelle Battista:

    If you missed the CIPD ethics webinars you can listen to the recordings that are available on this CIPD webpage... www.cipd.co.uk/.../ethics-work-guide