Consistency Makes Ethical Standards Stand Out

Posted on: 7 April 2017

Having an ethical organization is essential for any sort of business or operation now, and ensuring that the standards followed by everyone at the organization are consistent is crucial. However, putting together a consistent ethical standard is like wrestling the proverbial octopus, even on a good day. Some basic steps at the beginning will help you wrestle those consistent ethical standards into place.

Everything in Writing

If anything is going to tank your attempts to make your ethical standards consistent, it will be those unwritten and unspoken rules that half the company seems to know and the other half doesn't know at all. Get every single point you want to make in writing, and make it available to the entire organization. Everyone who works there, from janitors to the administrators, needs to know what the ethical expectations are. Post the standards somewhere and make PDFs available online for downloading. You may want to look at the standards used by similar organizations if you're trying to turn a really bad situation around.

Review Complaints

If there is a problem with unethical behavior at the organization, it will often show up in the form of complaints from various employees and customers or clients (or students and teachers if it's a school, such as the college of Dupage). Review complaints from the past few years, and look at the reasons people have given for leaving. You may start to spot complaints about a certain person or procedure that made others uncomfortable. Knowing if there are specific ethics complaints gives you a starting point as you try to clean up the organization.


Once you've made the standards available to everyone, don't assume that anyone is actually going to read them on their own time. Hold seminars for everyone to discuss the new standards, and get signatures to indicate that everyone agrees to abide by the standards. Have a robust complaint/ombudsman procedure in place so that people feel safe reporting ethics violations. Be extra careful to ensure whistleblowers are protected. If someone reports a true violation, that person should not be subject to more ethical violations in the form of harassment or retaliation.

It can take time to identify the problems and change the situation around. But it can be done, and you need to approach it as a vital project that can't wait. As the consistent standards gradually replace the inconsistent ones, you should see the organization start to function more smoothly and, hopefully, see any low morale improve.