An organisation should stress ethical behavior in all stakeholder transactions and interactions. It’s an organisation’s governance body that should require highly ethical conduct and monitor all conduct accordingly. The senior leaders should be the role models of ethical behavior and make their expectations of the workforce very clear and organisation’s ethical principles are the foundation for the company culture and values. They distinguish right from wrong. Clearly articulated ethical principles, along with organisational values, empower the people to make effective decisions and may serve as boundary conditions for determining organisational norms and prohibitions.

Transparency on the other hand is characterised by consistently candid and open communication on the part of leadership and management and by the sharing of clear and accurate information. The benefits of transparency are manifold. Transparency is a key factor in workforce engagement and allows people to see why actions are being taken and how they can contribute. Transparency also is important in interactions with customers and other stakeholders, giving them a sense of involvement, engagement, and confidence in organisation. Ethical behaviour and transparency build trust in the organisation and its leaders and engender a belief in the organisation’s fairness and integrity that is valued by all key stakeholders.

Promoting ethical behavior in an organisation

Give people the authority and responsibility to make decisions and take actions. When people are empowered, decisions are made closest to the front line, where work-related knowledge and understanding reside. The purpose of empowering people is to enable them to satisfy customers on first contact, improve processes and increase productivity, and improve organisation’s performance results, as well as to encourage collaboration. An empowered workforce requires information to make appropriate decisions; thus, the organisation must provide that information in a timely and useful way.

The actions an organisation takes must ensure that all its decisions, actions, and stakeholder interactions conform to its moral and professional principles of conduct. These principles support all applicable laws and regulations and are the foundation for organisation’s culture and values. They distinguish right from wrong. Senior leaders should be role models for these principles of behaviour. The principles apply to all people involved in an organisation, from temporary workforce members to members of the board of directors. These principles benefit from regular communication and reinforcement and senior leaders have the responsibility for the alignment of an organisation’s mission and vision with its ethical principles. Ethical behaviour encompasses interactions with all stakeholders, including workforce, shareholders, customers, partners, suppliers, and local community. Well-designed and clearly articulated ethical principles empower people to make effective decisions with great confidence. In some organisations, ethical principles also serve as boundary conditions restricting behaviour that otherwise could have adverse impacts on organisation and/or society.

Role of a leader

Senior leaders in an organisation should set a vision for the organisation, create a customer focus, demonstrate clear and visible organisational values and ethics, and set high expectations for the workforce. The vision, values, and expectations should balance the needs of all stakeholders. The leaders should also ensure the creation of strategies, systems, and methods for building knowledge and capabilities, stimulating innovation, managing risk, requiring accountability, achieving performance excellence, and thereby ensuring ongoing organisational success.

The values and strategies leaders define help guide all of organisation’s activities and decisions. Senior leaders should inspire and encourage the entire workforce to contribute, to develop and learn, to be innovative, and to embrace meaningful change and should be responsible to organisation’s governance body for their actions and performance, and the governance body should be responsible ultimately to all stakeholders for the organisation’s and its senior leaders’ ethics, actions, and performance.

Senior leaders must serve as role models through their ethical behaviour and their personal involvement in planning, providing a supportive environment for innovation, communicating, coaching and motivating the workforce, developing future leaders, reviewing organisational performance, and recognising workforce members. As role models, they can reinforce ethics, values, and expectations while building leadership, commitment, and initiative throughout organisation. Senior leaders should demonstrate authenticity and admit to their missteps and opportunities for improvement.

Written by Vaibhav Garg, Area Talent & Culture Manager at AccorHotels Maldives and Executive Assistant Manager at Mercure Maldives Kooddoo.

Vaibhav Garg serves as the Advisory Board Member at Cornell Institute of Healthy Futures – Cornell University, New York and is involved in hospitality service research initiatives & programs and has presented his research papers at renowned international universities, business schools, and hotel associations from Maldives, Asia, Europe, China and United States.