Unethical behavior is one of the largest factors in poor morale in the workplace today. Coworkers and supervisors observe unethical behaviors, and then the offender loses trust and credibility. One of the biggest problems with understanding ethics is the difference of perception of right and wrong, at the core of our ethical belief system.
We grow up in an environment that creates our core value system. Add to that faith beliefs, social modeling, and life experience, and ethics becomes a moving target to understand and implement.
Improving ethics in the workplace environment is based on communication and role modeling. The first level of communication involves training, where employees are helped to understand what the core values of the organization are, why they matter, and what the behavioral expectations are. Without training and the reinforcement of modeling, most people will simply make their own decisions based on their own individual values, not necessarily in line with those of the company they work for. It is up to management to decide what the core values of the organization are, then to communicate those values to the masses, setting very clear expectations of what ethical behavior looks like, what the impact of these actions are, and what the consequences of violation are.
That's a start-it's a plan. The second step is the communication of that plan to every employee, bottom-to-top, with examples of what great behaviors look like.
The third step is to monitor and evaluate, like should be done with any behavior or policy, to make sure everyone follows the same set of rules. Consistency of application of policy is essential to the success of the program.
People making ethical decisions are more productive, less stressed, and more focused on what it takes to make a business successful.