You need to react to ethical issues in the workplace swiftly to limit damage and prevent a moral dilemma from becoming a company crisis. An ethical issue may arise in various parts of your company, from financial reporting to the hiring process and coworker interaction. Prepare to handle ethical issues in the workplace by familiarizing yourself with potential problems in your field and ensuring all employees know the policies and consequences regarding unethical behavior.
While it's impossible to anticipate every possible ethical situation you may face, you can learn about typical ethical issues in your industry and in the workplace in general. Research common ethical dilemmas from reputable resources, such as your industry's professional trade magazine, and sign up for business ethics classes at a local college or university. Ask trusted colleagues and coworkers about ethical situations they've faced in your industry in the past.
Establish a Workplace Policy
Write a workplace ethics policy from scratch, or revise your existing one, to reflect the information you learned and the mission, philosophy and conduct code of your company. Make your ethics policy part of other company documents, such as your employee handbook, and have all employees read and sign an acknowledgment that they have received and understand your ethics policies. By making your company's ethical positions clearly known, you'll help prevent employee confusion regarding ethical matters and also let them know the consequences of violating policies. If employees violate the ethics policy, you'll have a better legal standing when taking disciplinary action against them.
Arrange for workplace ethics training for yourself and your employees. While educating yourself through reading is valuable, actual role playing and simulations can prepare you even more and encourage ethical discussions. You and your staff will have the chance to experience actual dilemmas that might arise and respond to those events in a controlled environment. Training can expose flaws in thinking as well as moral gray areas.
Cover All Your Bases
Business ethics encompasses more than just an employee stealing from the company or harassing co-workers. You must also consider the importance of complying with state and federal laws governing your industry and the workplace in general. Research federal and state laws regarding business ethics and areas of related concern, such as federal "whistleblower" laws, that apply to your company and industry. Make sure your ethical policies, internal practices and training meet the applicable legal standards.