Sample Article Review on “Creating an Ethical Culture”

Article Summary

The article, “Creating an Ethical Culture”, delineates the significance of adopting values-based ethics programs as a means of enabling employees differentiate right from wrong. Most former executives of companies like Worldcom and Enron were under a lot of pressure by their superiors to meet higher and tougher goals. While most companies have “ethics” programs in place to avoid the occurrence of corporate fraud, they are merely compliance programs and hence less effective. Worldcom had detailed internal controls while Enron had in place a Code of Ethics. However, both companies had cultures that seemed to encourage or condone unethical conduct. Organisations need to embrace an ethical culture but these calls for an understanding of the diverse behaviours and values required to fulfil the desired ethical goals. Developing an ethical culture demands that organisations become fully aware of how a company’s executives handle such issues down and up the line of command and how the values depicted influence the desired behaviours. Such desired values could be grouped into seven categories: financial stability; communication; processes and systems; accountability, alignment; social responsibility; and sustainability.

Such an in-depth understanding of values calls for an organisational culture that fosters trust, and encourages open communication and transparency. This would have likely encouraged CFOs and CEOs of the organisations implicated in corporate fraud to desist from asking their mid-level managers to partake in such activities. Also, executives would have been more willing to confront such directives.

Thoughts about Article

As noted by the author of this article, building the right organisations culture is more effective in reducing the incidents of unethical conduct than ethics and compliance programs. Both WorldCom and Enron had ethics and compliance programs in place but still this did not prevent their executives from pulling off one of the greatest corporate frauds in living memory. On the other hand, I do not agree with the author that most executives and mid-level managers succumbed to blistering pressure by their superiors to fulfil higher and tougher goals. While corporate culture would have obviously mitigated the shear large scale of such incidents, this should not be an excuse for their actions. The mid-level managers and executives had a moral duty to exercise respect and accountability while executing their duties, and this included confronting orders from their superiors should they feel that it constituted unethical behaviour.

How the article applies to my life

I can attest to certain issues raised by this article on the issue of ethical behaviour and how these could impact on my life. For example, I now know that the culture of an organisation can corrupt an otherwise ethical-conscious individual out of pressure to deliver the goals of an organisation. I can also draw several valuable lessons from the article which I feel will be of immense help is shaping my ethical behaviour in the future. First, I do not have to engage in unethical behaviour when under pressure either from my superiors in the workplace or in my social life. Instead, I should always endeavour to remain accountable of my actions and be respectful of others because my actions could hurt people. Secondly, the article has impressed upon me the important role of whistleblowers in bringing to the light unethical conduct of individuals that could put the reputation of an organisation at risk. In this case, the lesson learnt is that evil prevails if good people do nothing. Finally, I have also learnt that creating an ethical culture starts with self. That is, espousing values that show personal accountability, openness and compliance with existing processes and systems should be both a corporate prerogative as much as it is a personal one.