The Ethical Administrator

Ethical behavior used to be taken for granted in the business world but not any more. Practically every week some new ethics scandal hits the headlines, further souring Americans on the business community. That's just the way things are today, unfortunately.

Our nation's newfound sensitivity toward ethical behavior will in time bring about many beneficial changes in the business arena. But in the meantime business professionals had better redouble their efforts to work in a responsible and ethical manner. This is just as true for supervisors and middle managers as it is for top executives, entrepreneurs, and Wall Street financiers.

But what exactly constitutes ethical behavior for supervisors beyond obeying the law and following corporate policy?


Let's consider several dimensions of ethical supervision that are often overlooked. the ethical supervisor:


      Looks out for the interests of others, including customers, employees, and minority members of our society (ethnic minorities, older workers, and the physically handicapped.


      Values employees as people as well as workers. Respect is given to the whole person, including his or her family responsibilities, community involvement, and religious beliefs.


      Doesn't tell people what they want to hear. The whole truth comes out even when it hurts.


      Doesn't play psychological games with others, such as blame-shifting, practicing one-upmanship, or playing favorites.


      Values people over pragmatism, recognizing that how things are achieved is just as important as what is achieved.


      Focuses on the ultimate objective or mission (ends) more than rules and regulations (means).


      Is committed to ideals beyond self, such as honesty, fair play, and quality work.


To say the least, pursuing these ideals is no easy undertaking given the extraordinary pressures faced by supervisors in today's complex society. Profits must be maintained; federal government mandates, such as affirmative action, must be satisfied; and people both above and below the supervisor must be kept happy.


What's a supervisor to do in the face of all these conflicting demands? How can ethical responsiveness be maintained that goes beyond merely obeying the law?

Pursuing these ideals is no easy undertaking, given the extraordinary pressures faced by supervisors.




Let's consider five principles of ethics that have great potential for guiding supervisory behavior along positive, productive channels:

The mission principle. Stick to the basic mission of your organization (service, quality, value to the customer, etc.) as a day-in, day-out guide to decision making.

The consistency principle. Demand the same fair, objective standards from every employee.

The constituency principle. Consider the needs and rights of as many groups as possible in decision making.

The proactive principle. Go above and beyond the minimum expectation or rule in taking action. Strive to find ways to deliver as much as you can to others over time.

The holism principle. Keep the big picture in mind at all times: the personal side of employees in addition to the professional; the service side of business along with the profit side; the needs of the minority as well as the majority.

With these five principles in mind, the ethically minded supervisor can follow a simple acronym--WORTH--despite the hustle-bustle of the workday:

Work toward the needs of others.

Operate within the spirit of the law.

Respect the whole person.

Tell the whole truth.

Help the organization deliver maximum value to its constituents.

Do you have much WORTH as a supervisor? If so, help to increase the WORTH of those you work with. Business needs WORTHwhile supervisors today more than ever. It's all up to you.