Authentically Ethical: The Role Core Values Play in Business Ethics

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The core value of being an ethical business is lofty. Many companies strive to be  ‘ethical’ but fall short for various reasons. Often ethics are set aside for profits and striving to meet the company’s financial goals. These struggles can come from business leaders forgetting that it is actually possible to be both ethical and successful. 


Although ethics-driven ideas have experienced somewhat of a boom in recent years, the field might still be slightly irrelevant to business managers. Not that many are against the idea of incorporating business ethics. Instead, many struggle with finding concrete assistance for different kinds of ethical challenges that leaders often face. 


Becoming authentically ethical as a business is a subtle thing. There aren’t always straightforward answers on the best course of action in certain gray areas. Finding good leadership based on core values and building these values throughout the company are good places to start. 


Ethical Leadership


Becoming an ethical business is more important than ever before. Thanks to modern technologies and social media, even a seemingly minor lapse in ethical behavior or an error on the part of an inexperienced manager can escalate into a significant issue. Company leaders must strive to develop clear policies and standards that can be tiered to. 


Strong leadership is the rock that centers all businesses. Companies succeed and fail based on the quality of the leaders at the top and the quality of middle management. The leaders directly interacting with employees and customers are the pillars from which values of company ethics can spread. 


Some of the most respected leaders can incorporate ethics without thinking too hard about it. Qualities of authentically ethical leaders include:

  • Encouraging participation, input, and collaboration from all team members
  • Leading through solid moral values
  • Communicating transparently
  • Developing relationships based on empathy
  • Aiming to help employees with problems 
  • Focusing on what is right over what is profitable

Building the Right Culture


Ethical leaders may be the starting point, but ethical practices need to seep into the company culture as well. This typically starts with company policies and changing how people think about their work. It is important to ask employees if they see a difference between doing what is right versus what will help the company and strive to make sure there is no difference. 


A company not living up to its stated values is often listed as a reason why good employees leave their jobs. To avoid this, leaders must strive to avoid virtue signaling — which is a term for saying that the company has ethical values but not actively developing these values beyond the statement. Virtue signaling can be a sign of a toxic work environment and can lead to a great many problems. Employees that report this as an issue should be taken seriously, and efforts should be made to rectify the situation. 


Another means of building a more ethical workplace is to promote workplace diversity. Workplace diversity encourages a greater variety of opinions and life experiences. This diversity can help flesh out ethics goals by garnering a greater variety of thoughts on company ethics and important steps to take to improve the company’s ultimate goals. 


The goal of becoming a company known for its ethics is admirable. Developing a solid policy for ethics and leading by example are perhaps the two most powerful means of achieving this goal. When incorporating ethics goals into company culture, middle management should be leading the charge, employee concerns should be taken seriously, and real effort should be made to remedy problems in a way that is true to company values. 


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About the Author

Jori Hamilton

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity, company culture, leadership, and mental health. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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