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Business Ethics in 2021: The Obligations of Employers – And Employees

Dr. Jim White, an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.

Examples of transgressions in the business world are plentiful, from high-profile embezzlement schemes and false advertising to unethical internal practices such as substandard working conditions and sexual misconduct.

According to Dr. Jim White, CEO of 13 companies and bestselling author of Broken America: Ten Guiding Principles to Restore America, it’s more critical than ever to make 2021 a year of ethical behavior. “We’ve seen our nation’s morals crumble into dust, with violence, racism, lying, cheating and manipulation becoming the norm,” White says. “The appalling attack on the Capitol is the ultimate horror. By and large our leaders have failed to model ethical principles. The business community must become the new standard bearer.”

White says there are clear ways organizations can create a cultural of ethical behavior for the greater social good.

It begins at the top. Employers should develop and communicate the core values of a company to staff as well as to vendors and customers. They must integrate these core values into day-to-day operations, and reinforce the message by rewarding good behavior (and performance) with equitable pay and promotions.

But it’s not only up to the employers to do the right thing; employees must pull their own weight, White notes. Employees are obligated to:

  1. Respect the rules set out by the company. Employees must internalize the company values. When they do, they often become more driven and more excited about their jobs, and their performance improves.
  2. Show integrity. It’s not that different from the lessons taught in kindergarten. Don’t lie; don’t steal; don’t cheat. The regulations that govern the world outside the four walls of the office apply inside, too, so drinking and drugs are an obvious no-no.
  3. Cooperate with coworkers. A certain degree of competition between employees is healthy; but backstabbing and sedition clearly are unacceptable. A company culture of active listening, sharing of ideas, and plentiful praise benefits everyone… and the bottom line.
  4. Value diversity. It’s not enough that HR adheres to a diverse hiring policy. Employees must then work to create a culture of inclusion and mutual respect. Sexual harassment, racism, and ageism have no place in the workplace… or anywhere else in society, for that matter.
  5. Follow health and safety protocols. The scourge of 2020 is not over. It is unacceptable to be cavalier about COVID-19 risks when a great many workers and their families remain vulnerable.
  6. Report transgressions. A good workplace provides an open channel of communication where employees can safely provide feedback to management – especially regarding misconduct.

“Americans have become inured to lying, cheating, and all-around immorality. It shouldn’t be tolerated in politics, and it is unacceptable in the business world,” says White. “As we look to the new administration and as the economy struggles to right itself after the financial blows dealt by the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we conduct ourselves ethically.”

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Dr. Jim White
Dr. Jim White is founder and president of JL White International. He also is chairman and CEO of Post Harvest Technologies, Inc. and Growers Ice Company, Inc., and founder and CEO of PHT Opportunity Fund LP. White is the bestselling author of five books, including Broken America: Ten Guiding Principles to Restore America and Opportunity Investing: How to Revitalize Urban and Rural Communities with Opportunity Funds. Throughout his career, he has bought, expanded, and sold 23 companies operating in 44 countries. He holds a B.S. in civil engineering, an MBA, and a doctorate in psychology and organizational behavior. He shares his insights and critical thinking skills in a webcast series, Healing America with Dr. Jim White, in which he explores the many issues and challenges faced by our nation – and how to fix them. Dr. Jim White is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, or connect on LinkedIn.