Some additional thoughts about ethics at work:
A good system, (corporate, political, military, and educational) encourages the best within us and discourages the worst within us. If people are not behaving ethically and not adhering to the standards you had hoped for them to adhere to, look at the system in which they operate for clues as to why that may be.
Most people have some basic knowledge about ethical behavior; they know right from wrong and truth from lies. However, no one is ever really done with their ethics education! Ethical challenges always exist and new ones may present themselves at any time. It’s really more of a process than a product or event. Fairness is a concept that you may understand but the circumstances in which you apply it may shift and change.
Ethics education is not the sole responsibility of parents, or clergy, or educators, though all play a role. Managers, colleagues, corporate and family culture, even the trainer in a program on the topic all play a role.
Ethics may be caught more than taught! It would be great if the boss walked the talk and set an example – but if your boss doesn’t, you can and should still act in an ethical manner. If your boss is corrupt, it doesn’t mean you can, should, or will be too. It’s easier though to have high ethical standards if your boss has them.
The truth is that every manager teaches ethics. They teach it in the way they behave, the discussions about ethical choices they have, or the silence they keep in the face of tough ethical decisions.
People often talk about having integrity and aiming for excellence but what does that really mean? There are often difficult decisions to make and challenging actions to take, but there is no checklist to review and no ‘one size fits all’ behavior to apply. If you have a program on ethics in the workplace (and I’ve conducted them), it should only serve as a springboard to ongoing discussions throughout your career.
If it’s not, you may be wasting your time and money.