The Role of Ethics in the Workplace

There’s a difference between being a boss and being a leader. This has become more apparent than ever during the last 18 months, with some business owners and managers revealing themselves to be true leaders during the pandemic and others behaving in a way that’s raised eyebrows and led to people boycotting their brands.

But what is it that makes these two types of business owner or manager so different? It could be argued that it’s the prevalence of ethics. Here’s a look at the role of ethics in the workplace and what it can mean for both you and your employees.

What’s the difference between a boss and a leader?

There are different factors that make someone a boss rather than a leader. As a business owner, it’s likely you want to be more than simply the person in charge. But what can happen if you are just the boss of a company?

First, communication is key. If you’re simply a figurehead or someone who doesn’t work with your teams, you could find that there’s a breakdown in communication and this can lead to confusion among employees and mistakes being made. Longer-term, a lack of communication can see employees losing faith in you and causing them to look for a role where they feel valued by management.

Lacking communication leads to the next major concern when you’re a boss rather than a leader: a lack of direction. You might have a vision for your company, you might not.

If you do, does your workforce know what the plan is? What the targets are? And if you don’t, how can you be a good leader if you don’t have a vision for your organisation? Your employees should know what the goals are, whether that’s to grow a customer base, establish international connections, or to boost revenue.

Why be an ethical leader?

Being an ethical leader can lead to influencing and inspiring workforces and encouraging staff members to respond to periods of change – whether that’s positive change or times of uncertainty. In fact, the concept of change leadership is built on this premise.

Ultimately, ethical leadership is where you build strong, respectful relationships with your team of managers and your employees. It means that you choose managers who will promote ethical actions in every aspect of the work they do and that this will filter down to those they manage.

It’s important to be an ethical leader because, for employees and customers alike, you’re showing that you’re a trustworthy person who leads by example. This can help with staff engagement and retention as they are more likely to want to work for a person who has a good moral compass.

For customers, if they see that there is an ethical approach to how the business is run, they are more likely to be loyal to the brand. They can see you have integrity and that you treat your staff well – and this can see repeat business as a result.

You are also more likely to boost your reputation and get good press. Potential customers will hear about what type of leader you are and want to know more.

How to introduce ethics in your approach to business

Here are some tips to help you introduce an ethical approach at your company:

  • Define your values

Having clear values in place gives your workforce something to consider in every action they take as part of their role. Working to the core values aligns the team.

  • Lead by example

Showcase how to be a good leader. Work with your managers in an open, honest way that allows them to have the autonomy to act while maintaining the values of the company. By showing them this management style, they will filter this down to their teams.

  • Identify ethical issues

As a leader, you’ll need to know when others aren’t behaving properly and act accordingly. For instance, if you know someone is being untruthful, you’ll need to recognise this, evaluate what has happened, and consider how to address the situation in a way that’s morally correct.