Developing Your Talent

Going Beyond Legal Requirements to Create an Ethical Culture

By Steve Harrison on April 29, 2013

Despite regulations, enhanced training, whistle-blower hotlines and stricter company policies, unethical behavior persists. Why? Basically, it’s because an ethical culture can’t be created by using “carrots and sticks” alone – there must also be an organizational commitment to creating an ethical culture.

Rather, it involves the daily demonstration of specific, tangible and sustainable “decencies” up and down the hierarchy. Decencies would include appreciation, respect, and concern – not just for the bottom line, but for the people who help you get there. In other words, letting employees know they are valued.

Accountability is an integral component of any compliance policy.  Leading your organization with decency – doing the right thing even when no one is watching – will drive an ethical culture and discourage the greed, arrogance and self-serving decision making that has spelled disaster for some of the country’s largest organizations. Leading with decency, civility and responsibility requires going beyond the legal requirements.

As a leader, you are the standard bearer for an ethical culture. This means demonstrating behavior above reproach and taking into consideration how every decision, every gesture and every expression of appreciation will be viewed – and potentially shared to millions via social networks – by a watchful workforce.


Steve Harrison is a longtime management and corporate culture innovator. He is the author of “The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Can Build Great Companies.” This is the second in an eight-part series from Steve addressing a philosophy of doing business that goes beyond the transfer of goods and services. It calls for a transfer of values known as small decencies. Steve is co-founder and Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison and former chief ethics and compliance officer of Adecco Group.

2 Responses to “Going Beyond Legal Requirements to Create an Ethical Culture”

  1. Patrick (Pat) Collins

    Thank you Steve for sharing your wisdom, I am sharing with my fellow fraud examiners.

  2. ssa zaidi

    A very good peice of advice–changing culture is an uphill task -but it can be done-i will use your nugget of wisdom in my article


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