What Is Ethical Culture And Why It Matters For Whistleblowing?

The term ethical culture is often used to describe an organisation's values, behaviours, and business practices. It refers to the ways in which people work together within an organisation to ensure that they are fulfilling their responsibilities to each other and their customers by upholding a set of core values.

An ethical culture is one that supports employees' ability to do the right thing at work. It means having clear expectations about what constitutes acceptable behaviour at all levels of the organisation so everyone understands what's expected of them when it comes to upholding ethical standards.

An ethical culture means a set of values that are shared and deeply held by an organisation

An ethical culture means a set of values that are shared and deeply held by an organisation. It's a mindset, where people understand the importance of acting in accordance with the law, as well as demonstrating respect for others. In order to build an ethical culture, leaders must model the desired behaviour and reward it when employees display it. This can be accomplished through policies and procedures that reinforce what is expected, but also through training sessions that explain why ethics are important at (and beyond) work.

In addition to being consistent with your policies and procedures around whistleblowing, you should also give attention to how you treat whistleblowers within your organisation — especially if they report concerns about wrongdoings internally rather than externally via an external whistleblower hotline or another reporting mechanism. If someone comes forward because she feels there is something wrong within her department or division—and then finds herself criticized or ignored by her leadership team—it’s unlikely that she will feel comfortable coming forward again if something else goes wrong later on down the line (unless she loses faith in management altogether).


Ethics are about the organisation's identity, not about its rules

The reason why this distinction matter is because it's easy to assume that if you have clear and consistent policies in place then everything will be fine. But this isn't the case - ethical issues come up when we need to make decisions based on our values and beliefs, and can't simply follow a rulebook or checklist of obligations. If a person feels that their conscience won't allow them to comply with a rule, then following it may result in unethical behaviour on their part. In other words: ethics are about how an organisation behaves as a whole - including its values and culture - rather than simply what formal policies it has written down for its employees.


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Ethics are reflected in an organisation's behaviours and business practices

A company's culture is reflected in its behaviour. This means that how an organisation behaves is a direct reflection of its values, business practices, and treatment of people. So if you're working for an unethical company where whistleblowing is discouraged, then you will likely see that same kind of behaviour throughout your own work every day.


Ethical culture is not a static entity

Ethical culture is not a static entity. Rather, it is dynamic because it reflects the inner life of the group and evolves as that group matures and changes.

In fact, ethical culture can be thought of as an organism – with its own metabolism, immune system, nervous system, and consciousness – that responds to both internal and external pressures. These pressures may come from individuals or groups within an organisation or from outside (e.g., government regulations).


The tone of workplace communications can influence how employees report concerns 

The overall tone of workplace communication can influence how employees report concerns and feel they will be treated when raising issues.

If there is a positive culture of ethical reporting, an employee may feel more confident to take action if they see that others are treated fairly when they have raised concerns.


The organisation should communicate strong messages that top-management support

An employee should also be aware of the company's message about whistleblowing. This can be communicated through various channels, including:

  • The board of directors and its committees (e.g., audit committee, compensation committee).
  • The chief executive officer (CEO) and upper management team.
  • Middle-management employees who speak directly to line workers about ethics issues or ethical expectations for their behaviour in the workplace.


Management needs to make sure that everyone understands what is expected of them in ethics

In addition to a well-articulated code of ethics, management needs to make sure that everyone understands what is expected of them in terms of making ethics part of their daily activities, and that they know there will be consequences if they engage in unethical behaviours or practices contrary to the group's ethical code and norms.

Management should model the behaviour they expect from employees. If you want your staff to be honest and trustworthy when dealing with customers, it makes sense for you as a leader to behave in this manner yourself. While no one expects perfection (nor should anyone accept it), establishing personal standards for yourself is important if you want others to follow suit.

As a supervisor or manager, you need to ensure that your direct reports understand what's expected of them in terms of making ethics part of their daily activities. This can be done through regular conversations with managers at various levels within your organisation so they can share best practices learned from organisations outside yours as well as encourage each other in the pursuit of ethical culture initiatives within an organisation's hierarchy structure.


There are 4 key components for building an ethical climate: 

An ethical climate:

  1. Ensures that employees feel comfortable reporting suspected wrongdoing and know that they will be listened to.
  2. Helping whistleblowers report wrongdoing safely, securely and anonymously
  3. Encouraging employees to speak up when they suspect their company is breaking the rules
  4. Ensuring senior leadership takes whistleblower reports seriously.


An ethical culture supports employees' ability to do the right thing at work

An ethical culture is a set of values that are shared and deeply held by an organisation, as well as its behaviours and business practices. It's not a static entity; it constantly evolves as the company grows and changes.

The best way to develop an ethical culture is by actively listening to employees' concerns, acknowledging their ideas for improvement, and following through on those recommendations—not only because it's the right thing to do but also because it shows employees that their voices matter. In this way, whistleblowers have the opportunity to be heard before they take matters into their own hands.


Final Thoughts

Ultimately, an ethical culture is one that encourages employees to do the right thing at work. It’s about encouraging people to report concerns to management and giving them a safe place to do so without fear of reprisal. It's also about ensuring that everyone understands what is expected of them in terms of making ethics part of their daily activities and that they know there will be consequences if they engage in unethical behaviours or practices contrary to the group's ethical code and norms.


If you're looking for a platform to collect more data to have better involvement and ethical behaviour, we've got you covered. Falcony is easy-to-use, boosts two-way communication, has customisable workflows, automated analytics, vast integration possibilities and more. Start your 30-day trial or contact us for more information.

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We are building the world's first operational involvement platform. Our mission is to make the process of finding, sharing, fixing and learning from issues and observations as easy as thinking about them and as rewarding as being remembered for them.‍

By doing this, we are making work more meaningful for all parties involved.

More information at falcony.io.

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