Are ethics practices and behaviors in the business world different than those found in public service? If so, why?

                      6.14         Ethics in Business and government

Ethics is about day-in, day-out living and working with others. The respect and dignity with which you treat your boss, subordinates, coworkers, friends, and even strangers who you may never encounter again in your lifetime matter if you aspire to be an ethical person. Moreover, it doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, female or male, or employed in the public or private sectors. Consider the 2007 National Business Ethics Survey conducted by the Ethics Resource Center. The survey canvassed, by telephone, more than 3,400 U.S. employees (1,929 responded) to learn about the ethical practices in the organizations for which they work. (The report can be accessed at http://www.ethics.org/ research/nbes.asp.) On the positive side, the survey findings indicate that (1) the number of formal ethics and compliance programs in corporate America are increasing and (2) companies are moving beyond a singular focus on complying with laws and regulations and adopting a more comprehensive integrity approach to reduce misconduct. On the negative side, ethical misconduct remains very high, with more than half of employees reporting that they witnessed misconduct of some kind; many employees do not report misconduct, with one in eight fearful of retaliation; and only 9 percent of companies have strong ethical cultures. The report is available online at http://www.ethics.org/research/NBESOffers. asp.

Discussion Questions

 1. Are ethics practices and behaviors in the business world different than those found in public service? If so, why?

2. Are ethical standards in business organizations higher or lower than those in public service organizations?

3. Is there more unethical behavior in government than in business?

Commentary :

A report published in 2008 by Integrity Interactive on European corporate integrity found that most businesses are well advanced in developing formal codes of conduct, although less advanced in terms of implementing policies and practices to support their codes. The survey also found that nine out of ten companies provide training in the company’s code of conduct with many mandating training, and one out of five links some of their employees’ salary or bonus to ethical behavior. KPMG, a global firm with more than 120,000 employees specializing in auditing, taxing, and advisory services, advocates a culture of integrity and claims a robust ethics program that includes a values-based compliance code of conduct. The KPMG web site states that “every year, all members of our firm are required to affirm an agreement to comply with the Code of Conduct. Additionally, all partners and employees complete mandatory training that reinforces the  principles of the Code and further builds understanding of the firm’s expectations”.