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Memo to Managers
Eye rolls. Chuckles. Silence.
It’s easy to recognize signs of employee cynicism when it comes to ethics and compliance (E&C) activities. What’s harder to accept is that employee cynicism signals disbelief that the organization is seriously committed to a culture of integrity. Unchecked, cynicism can lead to higher risk of misconduct—ultimately the company’s reputation and bottom line.
What Should You Do about It?
1. Role Model Appropriately
Often, leaders don’t realize the impact their behavior can have on shaping organizational culture. An offhand remark or a dismissive attitude can speak volumes. Be personally committed to modeling behavior that supports an ethical culture, even when you think no one will know.
2. Hold Yourself and Others Accountable
Demonstrate consistent accountability. If top producers and leaders experience the same types of corrective action for misconduct as everyone else, word will get around.
3. Make E&C Real for Your Employees
Nothing frustrates employees more than training, emails, surveys and meetings that are not relevant to their work or are perceived to be unnecessary. Discuss E&C situations that your employees can relate to.
4. Bring E&C Topics into Everyday Communication
Your E&C program is not an add-on to the business—it defines how employees should work every day. Make a habit of talking about E&C as a regular part of work discussion. For example, introduce brief “safety moments” in staff meetings to discuss what employees should know about working safely. Or try an “ethics moment” to discuss doing the right things in situations that can really occur in their jobs.
5. Regularly Communicate Expected Standards and Conduct
E&C tools help us do what is expected and appropriate at work. We may think we know it all, but we need reminders. Repetition of E&C concepts is important so that we can recall the information we need at the moment we need it.
6. Emphasize the Importance of Speaking Up
Employees speak up when there’s something broken in the workplace. Why not speak up if there’s a question about conduct that could derail the organization? Employees protect their own company—and jobs—by reporting concerns.
7. Demystify the Reporting Process
Let employees know the different methods they can use to ask a question or report a concern. It’s especially important to explain what to expect after making a report.
8. Address Concerns about Reporting
Fear of retaliation can prevent people from speaking up. Help employees understand that retaliation won’t be tolerated. Explain what they can do in case they feel they are experiencing retaliation. Another inhibitor can be the belief that nothing will be done with their report. Here it is critical to model your own commitment to action and to closing the loop with the reporting employee once action is taken.
9. Be Available
As a manager, be available to your employees and third-parties in case they want to report or have questions. And don’t just say it. Do it.
Questions of the Month
Q: During a recent E&C training, some employees were whispering and making jokes about the content. I felt this was inappropriate, but did not disrupt the training to speak to them. Should I say something to them now?
A: Yes, but instead of singling out a few employees, you will have the most positive impact if you talk to your whole team about the importance of the training. Try acknowledging that training may sometimes feel like unproductive time; however, reinforcing how the training applies directly to the work they do daily will make it more relevant. Add comments on your own commitment to completing all E&C requirements with an open mind so that you know what to do to protect yourself, your coworkers and your organization from harm. This keeps people in jobs and our families fed.
Q: Another manager in my department has gotten away with playing favorites. She gives better assignments and promotions to those she likes. Here other employees (the non-favorites) often take me aside to tell me how unhappy and frustrated they are working with her. I want to help, but I’m not sure what I can do.
A: There are ways you can help. First, take your management colleague aside and tell her there is a perception among the work group that she favors some employees over others. Give her specific examples, but make sure to protect the identity of those who spoke up. Help her see how her actions could be seen as favoritism and explain the negative impact it can have on her staff. Hopefully, she will take your feedback in the right spirit. If her behavior does not change, you should escalate the issue to your mutual manager. If your manager is not helpful, consider taking the matter to another internal resource like HR or the ethics hotline. Unchecked, even the perception of favoritism can breed cynicism and that can lead to misconduct.
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Using Compliance Communicator
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