ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — March 2003

In This Issue
Walking the Talk: An Interview with Chris Richardson
Looking Toward the Future
Ask the PowerPhrase® Expert



AQP Connections
Our Readers Say
The Help Desk
Articles in Brief
News Bites
What’s Up?
Out of Context
Book Nook
March 2003 News for a Change—Home Page

NFC Index

AQP Home

Our Readers Say…

With this issue focusing on “Walking the Talk,” we decided to survey members of AQP to determine how their organizations define, communicate, and practice ethics and values. We learned that 84% of our members’ companies have a code of ethics or code of conduct in place and that more than 90% of those organizations have had those codes in place for more than two years.

Readers had many comments regarding the presence of these codes in their organizations, as well as whether such codes are even necessary. Here are just a few of their perspectives:

“My current company does not have an official code of conduct, but it is still, by far, the most ethical company I’ve ever worked for. I believe this is due to the fact that we are relatively small (55 employees) and privately owned. I’ve been employed by five previous companies; all publicly traded and all full of corruption.”

“The Code of Business Conduct is the basis for all employees in our company. From CEO to associates, all are required to read, sign, and follow the code. Security is the police department for violations, and such occurrences usually end in termination, which gets people’s attention.”

“A ‘code of ethics’ is meaningless and carries no teeth, nor do words affect company culture. How we act and behave are more relevant to the ethical makeup of an organization than some silly code. Enron had a code of ethics. Andersen had a code. Ernst & Young has a code, but they’ll help your company cheat us out of taxes.”

“Personally, I believe that one’s ethics are fully formed by eighth grade. In high school, if you cheat on tests, copy or plagiarize papers, or lie to your parents about substance abuse, there is a high likelihood you will continue to lack integrity, honesty, and ethics as an adult. No piece of paper with nice words on it is going to change that.”

“Our code of conduct appears to have been generated as a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to some questionable past events.”

“The company was required to do this a number of years ago due to unethical practices going on in one of the divisions. They now take it very seriously.”

“My organization is a public school district serving about 8,000 K-12 students. More than 12 years ago, through a community-wide process, eight community values were adopted by the school board, city councils within our service area, and the county board. These values are intended to be modeled by adults and used to guide the development of youth in the community. The values were recently reviewed as part of updating the school district’s strategic plan and reaffirmed by the school board.

“As a part of implementing the plan, we have started to measure the extent to which staff observe students demonstrating the community values. Measuring student behaviors implies many things we’ve not yet discussed: Assumptions that all adults in our system are aware of the values, model them, and understand their role in encouraging students to grow in these areas; also, that a training component for adults may be needed.”

We also asked readers to voice their opinions about how well management adhered to their organizations’ ethics policies. We learned that 68% of the respondents believed that supervisors, middle managers, senior managers, and executives all complied on a consistent basis. Only 13% of our members believed that none of these management levels adhered consistently. One respondent felt senior managers and executives were more likely to comply than supervisors and middle managers; two other respondents felt that exactly the opposite was true. Another 30 members chose not to reply to this question.

The following comments reflect our readers’ views on the question of compliance:

“We have a set of values that guide our business practices. One value is ‘our work is our bond.’ This is the basis of integrity for inter- and intracompany relationships. Further, if you lie in the course of your job, you won’t be with us long. If you mislead or cheat customers or suppliers, you won’t be with us long. If you misrepresent performance or artificially alter metrics, you will be fired. It is the actions of leadership that determine the ethics of an organization. Integrity is a key hiring criteria for our company.”

“While the code of conduct/ethics is out there, managers and leaders are not generally held accountable unless there is a gross violation.”

“I work for a federal agency, so for us, violating the standards of conduct is a matter of law, not just standards. You might also be interested in knowing that the standards of conduct for federal employees are more stringent than for members of Congress.”

Finally, we asked some fairly general questions regarding reinforcement and revision of these codes. The tables below summarize our members’ feedback.

Percent of Respondents
Signature required?
At time of hire
At time of hire and annually
Annually, but not at time of hire
At some other time
Training provided?
During new employee orientation
During orientation and periodic reviews/updates
During periodic reviews/updates, but not orientation

Review/revision schedule
Occurs at least annually
Has occurred at least once, but not annually
Has not been revised, but currently is scheduled for review
Has never been revised and no plans for revision are known


148 Respondents


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