GPI 074 – Teach your employees how easy it is to handle ethical dilemmas at work!

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Do not assume all of your employees have the same set of ethics your firm holds valuable.  You want your company to be successful so you cannot afford to allow daily ethical choices to go wrong, become costly or out of control simply because employees were not initially trained.  Be specific and train your employees on different possibilities that are unique to your firm or work situations.  Every time a new issue comes up, write it and the solution down so employees learn from these examples.  Here are a few to get you started.

Situations that might pose ethical dilemmas:

  1. Overpayments — Do we tell customers they paid too much?  Ask your employees in accounting what they will do when a customer overpays the firm by mistake.  Do not let them ponder this for long.  Ask them if they paid too much for something at the store, would they want someone to tell them they paid too much?  Their answer obviously answers this situation.  These employees need to hear their boss say, “Call the customer and tell him what happened as soon as possible.  He pays our payroll check each week and we owe it to him to be honest.  In fact, we owe it to all of our customers to be honest.”  This is an easy one or certainly should be quick to understand.
  2. New hires — How much do we train them?  Ask what they will do to ensure that a new hire is trained thoroughly and completely before terminating them just to try someone else.  Ask them before answering how they would feel walking into a new job and not getting support from the current employees?  Tell them to contemplate this before answering.
  3. Do we make a deadline or choose to eliminate a safety hazard for coworkers?  First of all, does one have to ask whether or not they should risk hurting any employee?  Ask them what they will do when they must pick between making a deadline for a customer and eliminating a safety risk on a machine that is down.  Ask them if they choose incorrectly, does it make a difference if they are the person working the unsafe piece of machinery and get hurt?
  4. Do we tell the customer/client the price was marked too high even though they paid it?  Ask your employees what they would do if they realized after the customer bought a purchase that the price was wrong, too high and that the customer was overcharged money.  Ask first before answering if they would appreciate being told they paid too much and were being notified?
  5. Do we disclose others’ confidential information?  Ask what they would do if a vendor claimed he could save our firm a lot of money if we only gave him another company’s bid information.  In this case, ask them if they ran a company, issued a bid and then found out their bid was passed around to other companies; how would he feel?  Tell your employee the company does not give out confidential information any more than it would give out the employees’ confidential information.  When customers deal with your firm, they should not have to think twice about giving confidential information to your firm’s employees.

Hold ethics training classes for your subordinates.  Once you hear some answers you do not like, you may quickly decide that you need to hold some training sessions to bring your customer service back in line with the defined company standards that you desire.  When you start the training, you will need to convince the doubters, otherwise replace them.

Teach employees everyone gets a chance, customers and employees.  Tell them the company will give everyone a chance and reinforce the fact that employees as well as customers need to be treated ethically.  To this they should agree and this, in itself, will win your subordinates over, as good fair treatment does with deserving employees.  Your training will go more smoothly when you express your intention to treat everyone fairly, customers, vendors, and employees.

Following solid business ethics boosts profits.  When reading and following them, you eventually will believe that adhering to this list of ethical statements and examples leads to higher profits and more financial success for the company rather doing nothing and ultimately following no standards.  It happens numerous times in business.  To outsiders, businesses may seem ruthless and unrelenting in their quest to make a profit, but they are just like consumers.  They know who they want to do business with and who they do not.

Nobody wants to deal knowingly with an unethical person or business.  Running a business based upon ethics will help you to ensure your financial success and help retain your customers as well as your employees.  When your company displays its adherence to a set of ethics, customers come to know and expect the best of your company’s capabilities.  Your stockholders are more satisfied, understand where the company is headed and most importantly trust current management enough to invest more of their own capital with the firm.  Remember that putting one’s funds in the pot displays more trust than any other action.   Money speaks louder than words.

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