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Ethics Programs: Can Employees Be Trained To Walk The Right Path?

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Ethics Programs: Can Employees Be Trained To Walk The Right Path?


Cheryl Carmanita Goodwin

University of Maryland University College

BMGT 496 вЂ" Business Ethics

Professor David Dawson

November 25, 2007

Table of Contents


Introduction 3

Purpose of Ethics Training 4

Reasons Employees Engage in Unethical Activities 5

Developing an Effective Ethics Program 6

Implementing Ethic Programs 8

Conclusion 9

References 10


In recent years, America has witnessed more unethical and illegal business activities than ever before. Among these are hacking, bribery, fraud, insider trading, employee theft, corporate scandals, and much more. Corporate scandals have resulted in public outrage about deception and fraud in business and a demand for improved business ethics and greater corporate responsibility .

To address the numerous accounting scandals, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002 which established new guidelines for corporate accounting practices. Many other laws and policies governing unethical and illegal conduct were put into affect; however, companies are vulnerable to ethical problems when employees, who do not know how to make the right decisions, are confronted with an opportunity to engage in unethical activities . Today, companies must adhere to new legislation and regulations that have been created to encourage higher ethical standards and incorporate some type of ethics training in the workplace.

As more and more ethical issues arise, companies place greater emphasis on codes of conduct and compliance training; however, a company’s mandatory ethics training does not ensure that every employee will stay on the straight and narrow path when faced with an ethical dilemma. This paper will first define business ethics and discuss the purpose of ethics training and then it will outline ways that mangers could develop and implement effective ethics programs to guide employees on the right path.

Purpose of Ethics Training

Business ethics is defined as “the principles and standards that guide behavior in the world of business ”. Most companies have policies and procedures that govern its working environment and require employees to following certain guidelines in order to establish an ethical corporate culture . In a corporate culture there are norms to adhere to and the ethic culture of a company “indicated whether it has an ethical conscience .”

Today, ethical opportunity “results from conditions that either provide rewards, whether internal or external, or limit barriers to ethical or unethical behavior…included in opportunity is a person’s immediate job context, which includes the motivational techniques supervisors use to influence employee behavior . More recently, many companies are very concerned about ethical misconduct in the workplace and since have adopted ethical training programs designed to help employees make moral and ethical decisions.

In order to improve ethical decision making and business conduct, companies could develop and implement ethics programs in its organization. An ethics program should help minimize the possibility of legally enforced penalties and negative public reaction to misconduct .” Another reason for companies to have an effective ethics program is to make sure that every employee knows the company’s values and that they must comply with all policies and codes of conduct that create its ethical culture . It is important for managers to “understand that all the factors that influence the ethical decision-making process can help companies encourage ethical behavior and discourage undesirable conduct .”

David Gebler, president of Working Values Ltd., a business ethics and training agency in Sharon, Massachusetts believes that “culture is the leading risk factor comprising integrity and compliance in companies today…Companies do not fully understand how their culture creates risks and how to mitigate them to stay out of trouble… Indeed, unethical conduct doesn't happen in a vacuum. Good people may crack when their breaking point is reached. Or they feel entitled to slip because standards are not applied consistently throughout the organization ."

Business ethics programs do have the potential to help top managers establish an ethical culture and eliminate the opportunity for unethical conduct ; managers just have to find out the reasons employees engage in misconduct and come up with a strategy effectively address the issues. Ethics training and programs are definitely the path managers should take because valid ethical systems “provide logically consistent reasoning” that guides individuals in making choices about their behavior .

Reasons Employees Engage in Unethical Activities

Employee misconduct may arise when there are no set of standard values regarding ethics in place. Managers need to know that they are accountable for the conduct of their employees and must set specific standards that govern ethical behavior in the workplace. Without ethical guidelines, manager may discover that employees are involved in unethical activities. Some reasons that employees might engage in misconduct are:

пÑ"? Feel pressure to do “whatever it takes” to meet business targets

пÑ"? Lack understanding of the standards that apply to their jobs

пÑ"? Believe their code of conduct is not taken seriously

пÑ"? Lack resources to get the job done without cutting corners

пÑ"? Believe they will be rewarded for results, not tactics

пÑ"? Believe policies or procedures are easy to bypass or override

пÑ"? Fear losing their jobs



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