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Prior to beginning your assignment, read Chapters 7 and 8 of the textbook, and Creating an ethical workplace.  For this assignment, you will take on the role of a mid-level organizational manager.  In your current job role, you have noticed that the organizational culture is contributing to some unethical decision making by subordinates and peers. You feel strongly that leadership must be not only made aware of the situation but also given appropriate solutions. To communicate with the CEO and shareholders, you must create a memo.  In the memo, you will explain the issues, as well as offer appropriate solutions.  For help in the format and writing style of a memo use  Good example of a persuasive memo.   

In your memo include:

  • Header: with To, From, Date, and Subject
  • Introductory paragraph
  • One to two paragraphs outlining the issues.
  • Three to six paragraphs describing solutions
  • A closing paragraph that summarizes the information.

In the memo:

  • Describe the issues of the current ethical culture
  • Describe which stakeholders are affected by the issues, such as employees, shareholders, local community, society, etc. 
  • Formulate a plan to change the ethical culture
  • Convince the CEO and shareholders of the importance of the changes

Memos are a business style of writing rather than academic. You do not need to use in-text citations in the memo. However, your work should be paraphrased rather than quoted. You must include a reference page to demonstrate the use of any resources.

Carefully review the Grading Rubric for the criteria that will be used to evaluate your assignment.

Creating an Ethical Workplace Business decisions aren’t always black and white. How can you trust that your workers will do the right thing?

By Dori Meinert | April 1, 2014

J PMorgan Chase paid the federal government $13 billion last fall—the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history—to settlecharges involving conduct that prosecutors say contributed to the mortgage meltdown. The bank acknowledged that itmade serious misrepresentations to the public about numerous residential mortgage-backed securities. In January, the bank agreed to another $2.6 billion in payments to resolve charges that it failed to adequately warn its clients about

Bernard Mado!'s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

JPMorgan's troubles are the latest in a series of high-profile corporate scandals to grab the headlines, damaging company

reputations and employee morale.

Last year, 41 percent of U.S. workers said they observed unethical or illegal misconduct on the job, according to the Ethics Resource

Center's 2013 National Business Ethics Survey (http://www.ethics.org/nbes/).

Not all of those incidents were major, budget-busting acts of wrongdoing. But ethical lapses tend to snowball. Once employees see

others breaking rules without repercussions, they may believe it's OK for them to do so, as well. Or they may get fed up and leave

the company.

In short, a culture where misconduct is tolerated—or, worse, encouraged—could result in higher turnover, lower productivity and,

ultimately, a diminished reputation and profitability.

On the other hand, companies that work to build and maintain ethical workplace cultures are more financially successful and have

more motivated, productive employees, studies have shown.

"If you look at the big picture, the livelihood of the company is at stake," says Holly Nowak, SPHR, director of HR for the Western

New York division of Alcott HR (http://www.alcottgroup.com/), an HR outsourcing company with 50 employees based in

Farmingdale, N.Y.

HR professionals are in a unique position to help build an ethical workplace culture because their involvement in hiring, training and

evaluating employees allows them to influence their organizations at many levels.

They are—or should be—both guardians and champions of the ethical culture in their organizations, says Steven D. Olson, director

of the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility (http://ethics.robinson.gsu.edu/) at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

As guardians, they have a duty to protect their organizations' employees, customers and clients from unethical conduct. As

champions, they can help their organizations flourish by promoting ethical values in daily operations and by building trust, says

Olson, author of Shaping an Ethical Workplace Culture

(www.shrm.org/about/foundation/products/Pages/EthicalWorkplaceCulture.aspx), a SHRM Foundation report.

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Changing Expectations he 2008 financial crisis and recession tested people's faith in business leaders. Only 15 percent of Americans trust such

leaders to tell the truth, according to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer (http://www.edelman.com/insights/intellectual-

property/trust-2013/). Globally, only 28 percent of the more than 30,000 survey respondents believe that businesses

follow ethical practices. The scandal-plagued banking and financial services industry garnered the least trust compared with other


Before 2008, corporate reputations were largely determined by financial success. Today, businesses build trust by treating

employees well, demonstrating ethical practices and placing customers ahead of profits, according to the Edelman survey. The

rapid rise of social media also is pressuring organizations to be more transparent—or risk exposure of unethical practices.

Meanwhile, researchers have found that ethical workplace cultures make good business sense. From 1997 to 2013, the annualized

stock market returns of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For (http://www.greatplacetowork.com/best-companies/100-best-

companies-to-work-for)in the U.S. were 11.8 percent compared with 6.4 percent for the Russell 3000 index and 6 percent for the

Standard & Poor's 500 index, according to the Great Place to Work Institute (http://www.greatplacetowork.com/).

More organizations are recognizing the value of creating ethical workplace cultures. The percentage of companies with "strong" or

"strong-leaning" ethics cultures climbed to 66 percent last year, up from 60 percent in 2011, according to the National Business

Ethics Survey of 6,420 employees.

When companies value ethical performance, misconduct is substantially lower. In 2013, only 20 percent of workers reported seeing

misconduct in companies where ethical cultures are "strong," compared with 88 percent who witnessed wrongdoing in companies

with the weakest cultures, according to the survey.

What Is an Ethical Culture? ulture is often seen as abstract and tough to measure. It's more than all those carefully drafted corporate values

statements and ethics codes—it's the way things really work. Workplace culture includes how employees dress, how

they work with customers and how they interact with their bosses. HR professionals' initial challenge is defining an

ethical workplace culture for business leaders who may doubt its e!ectiveness.

"What it means to me is an environment that makes it easy to do the right thing and makes it di#cult to do the wrong thing," says

Michael C. Hyter, senior partner, leadership and talent consulting, at Korn Ferry (http://www.kornferry.com/) in Washington, D.C.

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In the SHRM Foundation report, Olson describes an ethical workplace culture as one that gives priority to employee rights, fair

procedures, and equity in pay and promotion, and that promotes tolerance, compassion, loyalty and honesty in the treatment of

customers and employees.

When employers respect the law and treat employees in a fair and consistent manner, employees begin to trust managers and

internalize the company's values as their own. Once that happens, ethics become embedded in the workplace culture, he says.

Managers' Influence anagers play a major role in determining whether employees embrace a company's values. If managers and top

leaders don't model ethical behavior or enforce rules in a fair manner, employees lose trust. Studies also show that

people are more likely to override their own ethical concerns if their manager doesn't share those concerns.

So, recent survey results that show managers are responsible for 60 percent of workplace misconduct are especially troubling,

says Ethics Resource Center (http://www.ethics.org/)President Patricia J. Harned. Senior managers are more likely than lower-level

managers to break the rules, the National Business Ethics Survey found.

When managers are involved in misconduct, "it really has an impact on people's perceptions of the culture altogether," says Harned,

noting it was the first time the survey asked who was committing the misconduct.

More than 1 in 5 workers who reported misconduct said they su!ered retaliation as a result, up from 12 percent in 2007. A third of

those who declined to report the misconduct said they feared they would be punished for doing so.

Employees are quick to pick up on inconsistencies, says Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, SPHR, founder of YOLO Insights

(http://yoloinsights.com/), an HR consulting company in Little River, S.C.

She recalls an incident involving a midlevel manager who was running a side business from work. He rationalized that it was OK as

long as he was getting his job done. However, when he disciplined a sta! member, the sta!er complained to HR about the double

standard: Managers could break rules, but others couldn't.

"A lot of these things happen because no one speaks up," Barnes-Hogg says. "If we had known a year earlier, we could have

avoided a lot of bad morale and turnover."

At a di!erent company, a high-level executive was caught viewing pornography on his work computer. Although he was a valuable

asset, the chief executive o#cer made the right decision and let him go, she recalls. An announcement was made at an all-sta!

meeting. Without giving details, the CEO let employees know that he had taken action, she says.

"I think the employees felt 'These are people we can trust,' " she says.

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H Can You Teach Ethics?

R professionals help lay out the expectations for employees by developing written standards of ethical workplace

conduct, providing training to make sure everyone is aware of the expectations and equipping managers to reinforce

the company's values through their actions.

When interviewing applicants, many HR professionals say they strive for a good "cultural fit," asking for examples of how potential

hires have juggled competing values in the past or responded to unethical behavior in others.

The Six Elements of an Ethics and Compliance Program

Written standards of ethical workplace conduct.

Training on standards.

Company resources that provide advice on ethics issues.

A process to report potential violations confidentially or anonymously.

Performance evaluations of ethical conduct.

Systems to discipline violators.

Source: 2013 National Business Ethics Survey (http://www.ethics.org/nbes/), Ethics Resource Center.

Although psychological assessments are an option, most focus on the behaviors that people see, says Joyce LeMay, SPHR,

associate professor of HR at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn. In a survey of 210 HR professionals she conducted in 2013, just 5

percent said they believed it was possible to hire an ethical person.

Once individuals are hired, ongoing training is critical to maintain a heightened level of awareness of ethical choices employees will

face on the job, HR professionals say. Harned sees positive signs.

For example, the percentage of companies providing ethics training increased from 74 percent in 2011 to 81 percent in 2013, the

National Business Ethics Survey found. Other key indicators of strong ethical workplace cultures: Two-thirds of companies include

ethical conduct as a performance measure in employee evaluations, up from 60 percent in 2011, and almost 3 in 4 companies

communicate internally about disciplinary actions when wrongdoing occurs.

Many companies provide online ethics training, which can be easier to administer and track, but live training is more memorable,

says Denise Messineo, SPHR, senior vice president of HR at Dimension Data (http://www.dimensiondata.com/en-US), a global ITC

solutions and services provider with U.S. headquarters in New York City.

Every other year, most of Dimension Data's 915 U.S. employees participate in a half-day ethics program, discussing how they would

respond to various workplace scenarios.

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"It just creates a great dialogue and awareness around what Dimension Data considers ethical behavior," Messineo says. "Because

di!erent people bring di!erent things to the table based on their background, you can see some 'aha' moments as people talk

through the di!erent scenarios."

At Intuitive Research and Technology Corp (http://www.irtc-hq.com/). in Huntsville, Ala., new employees are required to attend a

session called "Let's Talk Ethics with Hal." In the session, the company's co-founder and president, Howard "Hal" Brewer, discusses

specific examples of ethical decisions employees will face in doing business with the government and other entities and how

important their actions are to the company.

"He makes it clear that he is the ethics o#cer," says Juanita Phillips, SPHR, director of HR at the engineering and analytical services

company, which has 282 employees. "I am in on those meetings, so they know I am a resource as well.

"His strength is that he means every word of it, and he shows it in how he lives every day in terms of running the company," says

Phillips, adding that she knows it makes an impression because she has heard employees later paraphrasing some of his advice.

Howard Winkler, SPHR, project manager for ethics and compliance at Southern Co. (http://www.southerncompany.com/) in Atlanta,

says he's constantly changing his company's training program to keep its 25,000 employees engaged and attentive to ethics

issues. He runs contests, produces videos and uses internal social media.

Two years ago, the company invited a convicted felon to speak to employees about how a good person can go astray. The former

chief financial o#cer for a major health care company served five years in federal prison for fraud.

"It made an enormous impression," Winkler says. "This person didn't start out his career looking to commit fraud. The main message

was that once you make the first ethical compromise, you are embarking on a path that can lead all the way to a prison cell."

Winkler recently replaced the company's mandatory online ethics training, which required employees to read the code of ethics and

certify that they had done so. "When it's put online, it usually has all the charm and engagement of a software licensing agreement,"

he says.

He worked with his corporate communications department to hire actors and produce "a really nice uplifting video that lasts less

than 10 minutes as a far more engaging alternative to simply scrolling through a lot of words."

This year, Southern Co. is kicking o! an online video ethics training series to ensure that new front-line managers have the tools

they need to step into their new roles, Winkler says. He also tries to create opportunities for senior executives to talk to employees

about ethics, which he says helps elevate the issue in employees' eyes.

Beware of Ethical Danger Zones Sometimes good people can get swept into unethical behavior, warns Steven D. Olson, director of the Center for Ethics and

Corporate Responsibility at Georgia State University and author of Shaping an Ethical Workplace Culture, a SHRM

Foundation report. Watch out for these danger signs:

Conflicting goals. If forced to cut corners to attain performance goals or given objectives that they believe are

11/17/19, 5:31 PM Page 5 of 8


unattainable, employees may feel pressured to compromise ethical standards and lose trust in their managers.

Fear of retaliation. The fear of payback for doing the right thing is a powerful cause of inaction in organizations.

Avoidance. When bad things go unpunished or are ignored, that can lead to even worse behavior. It sends the

message "We don't care."

Rationalization. The "Everybody's doing it" mindset can lead people into murky ethical waters.

Lowered thresholds. With each unethical decision, the next one becomes easier. It's a slippery slope.

Euphemisms. Using neutral terms to describe questionable actions (e.g., "creative accounting") is a subtle form of


Evaluation Time o gauge whether their e!orts are successful, many HR professionals use employee surveys.

At Southern Co., last year 73 percent of employees said executive managers earn their trust "by consistently

demonstrating high ethical behavior," up from 68 percent in 2009. The company also tracks employees' fear of

retaliation when reporting a concern: 69 percent said they had no fear of retaliation, up from 60 percent in 2009.

"We'd like the scores to be higher, but the constant improvement is gratifying," Winkler says.

In addition, the company measures employees' understanding of what the company expects of them. Last year, 93 percent of

employees said they understood that, along with their business results, the success of their career at the company "depends on my

ethical behavior." And 94 percent agreed that "I am personally responsible for reporting improper conduct."

FIS (http://www.fisglobal.com/), a global provider of banking technologies with 37,000 employees worldwide, has moved away from

employee surveys because the results were too predictable, says Michael Oates, executive vice president, general counsel and

chief human resources o#cer at company headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla.

Instead, the company's top executives conduct employee meetings and roundtable sessions several times a year. "We found we can

keep a thumb on the pulse better that way," Oates says.

Many organizations include ethics or related values in employees' performance reviews. Others monitor complaints and turnover for

signs of a deteriorating culture.

"You start to see a decline in productivity because the workforce isn't engaged. People don't want to produce for an organization

that they don't feel is ethical and operating in a compliant manner," says Nowak of Alcott HR. Another red flag is when employees

suddenly stop raising issues, she adds. More than likely, they have given up.

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Of course, the ultimate distress signal is when the organization starts losing valuable people.

"When I have seen organizations stall—someone brings something to their attention, and it's not handled in a timely manner—what I

see is almost an unraveling of the organization," Nowak says.

Particularly in smaller markets, "you're going to have a hard time recruiting people to replace the ones who have left" if the

organization has a reputation for treating its employees unfairly, she says.

Talk About It—A Lot inally, ethics needs to be brought up regularly so that it stays at the top of employees' minds. Ask managers to raise

ethics questions in meetings. Encourage top executives to speak to it, as well. Managers can't monitor employees' every

move, but they can help them recognize the right thing to do when company priorities clash.

"When an ethical issue arises, it does not come gift-wrapped with a note that says, 'This is an ethical issue. Prepare to make an

ethical decision.' It just comes across as another business problem that needs to be solved," Winkler says.

"So if we can keep the chatter up and keep ethics on the minds of our employees, they are more likely to recognize and identify a

business problem as having ethical ramifications than they otherwise would. Psychologists call it priming," he says. "That's what an

ethical culture is all about: It's a place where people are more likely to see issues as having ethical implications."

As guardians of their workplace culture, HR professionals can not only lead the charge for ethical values but also inspire and

empower employees at all levels to do the right thing. And they'll create a stronger organization in doing so.

HR DAILY NEWSLETTER News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.

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