Stronger Focus Needed on Business Ethics and Whistleblowing Arrangements: IBE Survey

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Corporate ethics professor Stephen Brenner writes in The Journal of Business Ethics that all organizations have ethics programs, but most do not know that they do. A business ethics program must be made up of values, policies and activities that impact the propriety of organization behaviors. Ignoring ethical values or creating an environment of fear at the workplace can discourage employees from speaking up on ethical matters.

The Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) has published its Ethics at Work Surveys for Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The survey shows that about half of employees who aware of misconduct do not voice their concerns. According to Philippa Foster Back, Director of IBE, weak speak-up arrangements leave companies vulnerable. If managements do not know what is going on, they cannot protect their businesses against crisis.

The survey showed that 61 percent of those who did speak up said they were dissatisfied with the outcome. This percentage has more than doubled when compared with 2012. This phenomenon needs to be addressed if companies want employees to have confidence that meaningful action will be taken if they raise concerns of an ethical problem. Furthermore, awareness of the key elements of a formal ethics program is now lower.

The insights provided by the IBE research should encourage organizations that doing business ethically makes better business sense. Investing in an ethics program can have a positive impact both for engagement and employee behavior. The author of the report, Daniel Johnson, said that the data should be useful to companies that desire to engage constructively with their employees on ethical issues.

The results of the survey show that in both Britain and continental Europe, awareness of corporate ethics programsincreases the ethical awareness of employees and their perceptions of ethical culture. However, corporate messages regarding support for ethics at work appear to struggle to get beyond the management level in continental European organizations.

In Britain, 71 percent of the employees are more likely to say that their line manager sets a good example. But about 36 percent are also likely to say that their line manager rewards good results, even if ethically questionable practices are used. It implies that for some managers, results may take precedence over ethics.

Source: IBE

Image Credit: Flickr via OECD Business Ethics Panel