Magazine article Supervisory Management

Being an Ethical Supervisor

Magazine article Supervisory Management

Being an Ethical Supervisor

Article excerpt

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?

Characteristics of Ethical Supervision

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?

Five Guiding Principles

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

The mission principle. …

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