Ethical values provide the moral compass by which we live our lives and make decisions: ‘doing the right thing’ because it’s the right thing to do. However, there are several reasons why unethical behaviour continues to happen in the workplace, from individual actions and choice to industry-wide indiscretions and compromising decisions.In this guide, we discuss the red flags to watch out for, along with practical tips and resources to safeguard your organisation and people against ethical breaches and misconduct. The guide draws on – and complements – the latest CIPD research, and features nine areas of action employers can prioritise to ensure they behave ethically.
If you’re an employer or manager looking to foster and encourage ethical behaviour in your organisation, you’ll find the practical advice you need in this guide.
Download the Guide
Free webinars on ethical practice
Our webinar series explored specific areas of ethical practice at work. Ranging from encouraging employees to 'speak-up', to the concept of organisational 'fairness', these three webinars facilitated discussion and outlined latest advice and guidance.
Quick summary for employers
1. Ethical climate in organisations
These are the social norms and values outlining what the ‘right behaviour’ is, and how ethics should guide this behaviour. By identifying the type of ethical climate that exists in your organisation, you’ll be one step closer to improving this climate.
To see our red flags and actions points on ethical climate in organisations, see pages 4-6 in the full guide.
2. Developing and embedding codes
An organisation’s code of ethics needs to be credible, communicated regularly, and echoed by the board, leadership and management. This endorsement is vital to embedding ethics across the organisation.
To see our red flags and actions points on ethical climate in organisations, see pages 6-7 in the full guide.
3. Fairness and organisational politics
When workforces are treated with fairness, integrity and sensitivity they are more likely to respond with increased commitment and productivity. However, a workforce that perceives their organisation to be unfair is more likely to behave unethically.
To see our red flags and actions points on ethical climate in organisations, see pages 8-9 in the full guide.
Certain personality factors, along with psychological attributes, can lead to unethical behaviour. To create ethical practices, you’ll need to understand the personality traits of individual staff, building in measures to steer the likely courses of behaviour.
5. Job design
Responsibilities, tasks and interactions within a job role affect different aspects of working life, with job design inadvertently influencing unethical behaviours. It’s therefore vital that organisations pay attention to how work is designed – and carried out – by the workforce.
To see our red flags and actions points on ethical climate in organisations, see pages 12-13 in the full guide.
6. Targets and reward
Reward is an important factor in attracting, retaining, rewarding and engaging with the workforce. However, pressures to meet targets, deadlines and customer demands, hard-to-reach and short-term goals can increase the risk of unethical behaviour.
To see our red flags and actions points on ethical climate in organisations, see pages 14-16 in the full guide.
By providing a facility to speak up, employees are less likely to behave unethically, while organisations are empowered to clear their conscience and act before issues escalate, thus positively contributing to risk reduction.
Corporate scandals over the past few years have diminished trust in business. This presents a unique role for people professionals, who have the ability to positively impact the organisational context influencing employees’ perceived ability to challenge.
Beyond establishing a code of ethics, embedding ethical practice in your organisation requires consistent communication, particularly from the board, leadership and management.
Explore our related content
Explore the role HR professionals play in applying ethical values to organisational practice
Resolve ethical dilemmas and gain the trust of key stakeholders
Exploring what drives unethical workplace behaviour, providing recommendations to build more ethical workplaces