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Free Online Course: Managing Ethics in the Workplace: A Practical Guide for Managers

24 November 2009 No Comment

Free Online Course: Managing Ethics in the Workplace: A Practical Guide for Managers

Written by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Copyright 1997-2008.

(This module is in the organization development program. However, this module can also be used by anyone as a self-study exercise to learn practical approaches to managing ethics in the workplace.)


Managing ethics in the workplace holds tremendous benefit for leaders and managers, benefits both moral and practical. This is particularly true today when it is critical to understand and manage highly diverse values in the workplace. However, today’s training about business ethics in flawed.

The field of business ethics has traditionally been the domain of philosophers, academics and social critics. Consequently, much of today’s literature about business ethics is not geared toward the practical needs of leaders and managers — the people primarily responsible for managing ethics in the workplace. The most frequent forms of business ethics literature today typically include: a) philosophical, which requires extensive orientation and analysis; b) anthologies, which require much time, review and integration; c) case studies, which require numerous cases, and much time and analyses to synthesize; and d) extended stories about businesses “gone bad”. (This lack of practical information is not the fault of philosophers, academic or social critics. The problem is the outcome of insufficient involvement of leaders and managers in discussion and literature about business ethics. More leaders and managers must become involved. This guidebook aims to increase that involvement.)

This learning module provides a highly practical guide to managing ethics in the workplace. The guide is written in “manager speak” to ensure its practicality and relevance to those charged to address ethical issues in the workplace: leaders and managers in the workplace.

NOTE ABOUT HOW TO DEEPEN AND ENRICH LEARNING IN THIS MODULE: Adults learn best when they actually a) apply new information and materials, and b) exchange ongoing feedback with others about their experiences. You can substantially deepen and enrich your learning from this module by forming your own local learning community! Members of the community support each other to apply new learning, exchange ongoing feedback and share results from their experiences. Form an Authenticity Peer-Training Circle for about $15 a member!


  • The following materials will help you address each of the topics and learning activities in this module.

Ethics: Practical Toolkit for Business — particularly the sections:
– – – Fills Void of Practical Ethics Information for Leaders and Managers
– – – What is Business Ethics?
– – – 10 Myths About Business Ethics
– – – 10 Benefits of Managing Ethics in the Workplace
– – – One Description of a Highly Ethical Organization
– – – Ethics Management Programs: An Overview
– – – 8 Guidelines for Managing Ethics in the Workplace
– – – 6 Key Roles and Responsibilities in Ethics Management
– – – Ethics Tools: Codes of Ethics
– – – Ethics Tools: Codes of Conduct
– – – Ethics Tools: Policies and Procedures
– – – Ethics Tools: Resolving Ethical Dilemmas (with Real-to-Life Examples)
– – – Ethics Tools: Training


  • Learners are strongly encouraged to discuss the following questions with peers, board members, management and employees, as appropriate.

1. What is “ethics” and “business ethics”? Code of ethics? Code of Conduct?

2. Name 3-4 benefits from managing ethics in your workplace.

3. What is an ethics management program? What general activities are included in the program?

4. What’s the bottom line of the ethics program?
5. What is an “ethical dilemma”? What are the most likely forms of ethical dilemmas that might occur in your organization?

6. What policies do you have or might you need to help organization members address ethical dilemmas?

7. What training might you conduct to sensitive organization members to the ethical aspects of their day-to-day activities and decisions?


  • Learners are strongly encouraged to complete the following activities, and share and discuss results with peers, board members, management and employees, as appropriate.

1. Draft a code of ethics for your organization. Remember to include examples of preferred behaviors with each of the values in your code of ethics. Present the code to your board, explain its purpose and how you’d like to use it, e.g., to discuss it with staff members, post it throughout your organization and renew it annually.

2. Pose an ethical dilemma (from the reviewed materials) to the staff and walk them through application of one of the three methods to resolve ethical dilemmas (these methods are included in the materials, as well).

3. Refer to your mental list of the mostly likely ethical dilemmas to occur in your organization. Would these potential dilemmas be addressed by current policies and procedures? Note what policies and procedures need to be added (included yearly review of your code of ethics) and propose them to a local personnel expert. Update your policies handbook and explain the additions to all organization members.


1. One of the first indicators that an organization is struggling is that open action items are not tracked and reviewed. (Open action items are required actions that have not yet been completed.) Instead, organization members only see and react to the latest “fires in the workplace”. Whether open action items are critical to address now or not, they should not entirely be forgotten. Therefore, update and regularly review a list of open action items that includes listing each open action item, who is responsible to complete it, when it should be completed and any associated comments. When updating the list, consider action items as identified during discussions, learning activities and assessments in this module. Share and regularly review this action item list with the appropriate board, management and employees in your organization. You can use the following Action Item Planning List.

2. If you have questions, consider posing them in the national online newsgroups HRNET or ODNET which are attended by many human resource and organization development experts.

(Source from Management Help Organization)

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