Social Media Highlights Need for Business Ethics

You’re driving along and there it is hidden at the crest of the hill—a cop car with its radar gun. Instantly, you tap your brake and check your speed. You don’t want to get caught.

It’s the same for small businesses buzzing down the commerce highway. But it’s social media rather than a radar gun that can set off alarms. In seconds, people can publish a post, a photo or a video of what’s going on in your business. Now you’re caught, and everyone knows.

That’s why it’s more important than ever for small businesses to act ethically. Shady practices have always been bad for business. But now, even isolated incidents can be amplified and damage your brand. The standard has become higher.

4 Ways to Promote Ethical Behavior

Here are some ideas to help your small business maintain a high ethical standard:

  • Establish a code of ethical conduct – Let your staff know what you expect. Establish a written code of conduct. Let them know what behavior you expect. It might cover topics like:privacy of customer information, gifts from suppliers, customer service, and dress code. Some are more general statement of principles that can be applied to many situations. Here are some examples of behavior codes.
  • Provide training – Regular training gives employees an opportunity to ask questions and to practice ethical skills. Training often includes dilemma exercises. These are real-life situations that a staff member might encounter. It might include situations like conducting personal business on company time or harassing behavior. Employees get a chance to evaluate the appropriate response using ethical principles.
  • Establish a mechanism to report violations – Employees need a safe way to report conduct violations, free from the fear of retribution. Some businesses provide toll-free numbers or email addresses that preserve anonymity. Once a report is received, it is important to follow-up and implement any corrective action. For example, an employee who accepted a gift from a supplier should be counseled using the code of conduct as a guide. The gift should be returned if indicated.
  • Pay attention to work-life balanceOne study reports that 91 percent of employees surveyed said they were more likely to make ethical decisions if they have a better work-life balance. So pay attention to signs of stress among employees. Provide opportunities for them to better balance the demands of work and home.

Your actions speak louder than words—good or bad. That’s especially true when they can be broadcast instantly on social media. Protect your brand by considering these tips to maintain high ethical standards.

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