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It's a cliché, but when it comes to ethical culture, tone from the top – or how the most senior people in your organisation act – really does count. And when things go wrong, they determine the consequences.
As people rise up the hierarchy the stakes get bigger, and so do the pressures and temptations.
Yet if the very people who are meant to act as role models behave badly, this is bound to trickle down to employees, too.
Managers are responsible for embedding values through the ranks.
Says RBS’s Laing: ‘Tone from the top is very important but not helpful if that just turns into a diktat about how you must behave.
If you don’t embed the culture in these people you’ve failed.
They won’t breach the bribery act in a material way, the Serious Fraud Office won’t be knocking on your door, but if you don’t deal with the culture here, the culture won’t be right in the organisation, and things will become problematic.” Sam Al Jayousi, Group Compliance Manager, Carillion As well as being a role model, their first job is to engage their team or unit in defining how the values contained in the Co C translate and apply in daily work.
OECD analysis of foreign bribery enforcement actions reveals that most international bribes are paid by large companies, with senior management knowledge.
This pattern is repeated in the US, where ERC’s National Business Ethics Survey 2013 found that over half of misconduct incidents involved supervisory to top management (see Figure 2).
A good way to take the ethical pulse is to invite open-ended discussion about problems and use visits to unofficially ‘kick the tyres’ and ‘get under the hood’ of the E&C programme.
The role of the manager It’s when values are lived consistently by every person in the company that a culture of integrity is created.