What Is “Ethical Culture and Climate?”
What is generally referred to as “ethical culture” is actually a concept that integrates two distinct systems—ethical culture and ethical climate. It is imperative to take an in-depth look at both systems in order to fully understand “ethical culture.”
Ethical culture looks (anthropologically) at how an organization demonstrates and teaches the extent to which it regards its values. Specifically, the ethical culture of an organization:
Ethical climate is concerned with the “collective personality” of the organization. It is the psychological view of the organization. Ethical climate particularly focuses on:
In organizations where the formal and informal structures—derived from the ethical climate and culture — encourage ethical behavior, employee behavior will be more ethical. Specifically, ethical climate and culture impact the following:
Furthermore, the effects of the ethical climate and culture on ethical behavior are even supported across cultures.
How Do Ethical Cultures and Climates Form?
Both ethical culture and climate are subsets of the larger organizational culture/climate and as such, are influenced by
What’s a Leader to Do?
Leaders should work to create a values-based ethics program that also encourages compliance with the law. Additionally, they must demonstrate their concern for the interests of internal and external stakeholders and commit to making the needs of others a business priority (Trevino, et al., 1999). Finally, they must remember that ethical leadership requires modeling, coaching, and careful communication. In order to demonstrate their commitment to ethics and to promote ethics in the culture and climate of their organization, leaders should:
Ethical commitment must not be just platitudes and plaques. As both research and experience prove, ethics programs that serve merely as “window dressings” do no good—and may even be harmful. In order to ensure a positive ethical climate and culture,we must develop and implement performance objectives related to this critical organizational task. A holistic approach to ethics assessment and evaluation involves several elements:
Maintaining a strong ethical culture is essential for complying with the laws and regulations, but this alone cannot be the motivation for ethical culture building. Beyond the large impact an organization’s culture has on the bottom line, the development of programs to foster ethical conduct must maintain a focus on fairness, encouragement, and communication at all employee levels. Along these lines, employees must be given the appropriate tools and models to align their behavior with company culture and engage in ethical decision-making. The attitudes, choices, and actions
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