The degree of micromanagement in most Australian workplaces suffocates relationships of trust. Working from home (WFH) – ‘the new normal’ – presents an opportunity to redefine trust. It is an opportunity to reconsider and establish trust between managers and employees. This trust begins when leaders move away from the current tick box of ethics initiatives. Their enablers; consultants, HR managers, lawyers, and risk managers must facilitate this. This approach didn’t work in the past, and it will not work in the future. The loudest message in any company is what leaders do.
Questions Ethical Leaders Ask Themselves
Ethical leaders begin by asking themselves some essential ethical questions. Here are some good ones to start with:
- Am I impacting positively or negatively on the people I lead?
- Are my decisions personally motivated or based on what’s right for the business?
- Am I aware of my prejudices and bias undermining my integrity?
- Have I invested time in getting to know the strengths of each employee, so I can help them be their best at work?
- Do I encourage my people to learn from mistakes, or do I punish them?
- Do I have the interpersonal skills to manage group dynamics and nurture group harmony?
Ethical accountability is not easy, but answering these questions will put you on the right path.
What Needs to Change
The old comfortable management paradigm of command and control is no longer suitable in a Covid-19 world. Ignoring the social and psychological factors impacting employees is no longer acceptable. Consumers and public opinion won’t stand for it.
Transactional or conventional management uses command and control management styles. These feature risk and reward as key motivators and don’t appeal to the social nature of people.
Transformational managers adopt a more equal approach. They focus on empowering employees and tapping into social needs and psychological motivations. It shifts the manager’s focus from employee output to encouraging inputs that will enable them to thrive. This shift enhances the ability of staff to deliver desired results.
Why Companies Fail To Eliminate Conduct Risk
Many companies seem to be unable to eliminate conduct risk. This failure is due to leaders’ unwillingness to recognise patterns of unethical behaviour in workplaces. They are reluctant to hear issues of concern. Inside most companies, these revolve around the absence of procedural justice. This reluctance reduces employee engagement which research shows us correlates with employee perceptions of fairness. It impedes resilience which, science again tells us, is linked to engagement. It hinders innovation as employees are reluctant to expose themselves to trial and failure.
How To Build A Better Workplace Culture
When you understand that companies are a collection of social relationships, you start to see them in a different light. You can appreciate the importance of nurturing shared perceptions, attitudes and decision-making models. These cultural changes act as a prelude to shared behaviour standards.
To date, businesses have paid scant attention to the relationship between employee thinking and organisational culture. This interdependence is shaping the social dynamics that play out at work, enabling conduct risk to thrive.
To change thinking, prevailing mindsets need to come to light. To change context, bring to surface the informal practices that become the institutional roadblocks to trust. Chief amongst these is the absence of authentic leadership commitment to a culture where it is okay to speak up. Such a commitment can enable the business to learn from root cause analysis of where and when its systems are failing.
Trust emerges when people feel safe. How can this be achieved? Staff must experience consistency between what the organisation says it values and how managers treat them. It’s the hallmark of an ethical culture. Without trust, WFH becomes a logistical challenge. Employee well-being becomes a luxury managers continue to believe they cannot afford.
At this moment, it is time to step up to ethical leadership and beyond leadership as usual.
Now is the time to ensure you have the right managers in place to realise the human potential dormant in your company. Ethical skills are complex, and would-be leaders need to invest time in crafting these skills. Now is the time to allocate that time.
None of us is perfect, that’s for sure. However, you can hone the skills necessary to catch ourselves sliding into unethical patterns of managing. Acquiring ethical leadership skills will enable your organisation to emerge stronger from this crisis. You will have the inbuilt resilience to address the inevitable challenges our post-COVID-19 world will bring.
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