Ethical behavior within an organization refers to actions that are morally upright and in accordance to the law among employees during execution of their duties. What is ethical within the organization depends on the organization culture, personal belief as well as guidelines and rules governing the industry within which an organization operates. Unethical behavior within an organization can relate to issues such as conflicts of interests, fraud, insider trading, and use of company assets for personal reasons discrimination, harassment and corruption among others. Some issues fall in a grey area where the question of their being ethical or unethical depends on the policies of the organization and personal judgments.
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It is, therefore, advisable for an organization to have a framework for ethical behavior among employees. According to Mathis and Jackson, an ethical business culture is based on an organization’s mission and values. An ethics program should have a written code of ethics standards and conduct, training to employees on ethical issues, forum for consultation when faced with ethical issues and a system for confidential reporting of observed questionable or unethical conduct for it to be effective (Mathis & Jackson, 2010).
Verizon Wireless has received accolades for having one of the best ethical behavior cultures in the recent years. It has a written code of conduct that is placed on its website where it is accessible to all members of the public. The code of conduct is meant to create a culture of integrity and accountability among the employees. These are in line with the company’s values. Departments that are responsible for enforcing the code of conduct are the Human Resource, Office of Integrity and Compliance and the Legal department.
The code of conduct addresses vast areas on how an employee of Verizon Wireless should behave with other employees, customers, competitors and service providers dealing with the company. Areas dealt with in the code of conduct document are use of company assets for personal use, receiving gifts from customers or business provider, harassment and discrimination among employees, handling company information and employees conduct in the work place (Verizon Wireless, 2006). The document also outlines disciplinary action that is taken on employees who violate the code of conduct, including termination of employment for the employee.
The code of conducts also states that the company has an open door policy to allow those who need help in determining whether a situation is ethical or not seek advice. The company’s main criteria for determining whether an action is ethical or not is deciding whether the conduct can be viewed by some people as being unethical, whether it can hurt Verizon Wireless’ credibility and if it could hurt other employees, customers or business providers (Verizon Wireless, 2006). When the employee is unsure of any of these or one of these could happen, they are then required to report the issue before any further steps are taken on it.
The code of conduct also provides contact information on where an employee can report unethical conducts or suspicious behavior observed within the organization by employees. These can be done anonymously or identity of the employee revealed according to the employee’s wishes. It ensures that unethical conducts are reported promptly by the employees as they can choose to remain anonymous so as not to be victimized by those they have reported, especially if they are their superiors within the organization. According to the Verizon Wireless code of conduct, no employee can force another to act unethically, even when they are superior in rank within the organization (Verizon Wireless, 2006). This code protects junior employees as well as makes them accountable for their own actions in case they are found guilty of unethical conduct.
Training is also provided for the employees on ethical conduct. New anti-corruption compliance training has been implemented to provide guidance and practical examples to help employees understand and comply with various anti-bribery laws, including the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, both of which apply to Verizon employees around the world (Verizon Wireless, 2012). These trainings make the employees aware of the expected code of conduct for Verizon Wireless as well as how to respond to situations where they are not sure whether they are ethical or not.
The code of conduct governs the behavior of Verizon Wireless employees at work and, therefore, creates an organizational culture of integrity and accountability among the employees. The management of Verizon Wireless ensures that the code of conduct is adhered to by every employee through setting disciplinary measures and consequences for those who do not adhere. Trainings conducted make the employees aware of the existence of the guidelines and, hence, they cannot claim ignorance as defense for behaving unethically.
The Verizon Wireless ethics program is effective because it has fulfilled all the elements of a workable ethics program. These are: conducting training on company ethics for the employees, ensuring employees can get advice on ethical issues, having a written code of conduct as well as ensuring that employees can report unethical conducts. This is also clear in the fact that it was ranked number one in 2008 as the company with the best ethics program in the US. Maintaining an ethical behavior culture in an organization helps in growth of business as it is viewed as being credible by customers, suppliers, vendors and other stakeholders.
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