Term Paper: Ethics for Non-Profits Introduction Century

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It is essential for non-profits to a have a written code of ethics. But it is just as essential that the leaders of those non-profits take their responsibilities seriously enough to ensure that this code is a living thing, part of the way that people conduct themselves each day.

A code of ethics is important, but it can only be considered to be a first step. It must be enforced by someone - but it also has to be believed in. Clearly a number of members of the USOC did not believe in the code of ethics that they had promised to uphold. To them it was an inconvenience that got in the way of getting what they wanted.

Leading from the Top

The easiest way to improve ethical performance in any organization is also the hardest, because it requires the leaders of that organization to act in a consistently ethical ways themselves. The culture of any organization is determined in large measure by the behavior of its leaders, who are after all those most responsible for creating the culture in which people work (Kaplan 2001).

A few examples can demonstrate how such a top-down modeling of ethics can work. The head of non-profit who brags about having cheated the IRS by using the non-profit as a front for political campaigning can hardly be surprised to find that his employees are padding their expense accounts. A company owner who knows that her products are defective should not be astonished when her sales force starts leaking organizational secrets - just as the boss who sexually harasses his secretary should not be surprised to find the clerical staff embezzling the petty cash.

Organizations in this sense are not unlike families. Just as children will give at least grudging respect to a parent who always acts as he or she expects others to, employees will respect and even emulate a boss who always and consistently acts in an ethical and non-hypocritical manner (Monks & Minow 2001).

Leaders of non-profits must ensure an overall atmosphere of fairness in their organizations. Beyond the importance of establishing a good moral climate through the actions of those at the top of the organization, non-profit leaders can take two other specific steps to ensure that there is a high ethical standard in their organization.

The first of these is that employees (if not volunteers) should be compensated fairly. An employee making a reasonable wage (as defined by the job category within the industry generally) is less likely to act unethically. This is in many ways a matter of common sense: People who are treated fairly tend to respond in kind. This sense of fairness must extend to considerations of gender and race: The non-profit that fails to give women health insurance "because their husbands have it" is risking not only law suits but unhappy, unproductive and even dishonest employees.

Secondly, channels must be maintained to allow those in the organization to report problems to the leaders in a way that guarantees the lack of retaliation. A worker who spots a safety problem or an environmental hazard caused by a company policy, for example, must be able to report the problem and know that it will be addressed without any retaliation being taken.

This will reassure the worker that the organization embraces an ethical climate that is receptive to fixing problems that could result in ethical dilemmas. But beyond this, such a mechanism will assure the worker that while other organizations might tolerate unethical behavior the company where he or she works has higher standards.

The ethical person is influenced in every decision that he or she makes by a system of personal values and ethics, no less so in the professional arena than in the personal one. The condition of being ethical requires a consistent approach to behavior both in and out of the workplace. The idea of ethics in the professional world is often discussed as if it were an isolated phenomenon, something that had to be invented independently. But of course the nature of ethical human behavior is a subject that has been discussed since our very earliest ancestors sat around their campfires.

Ethical debates allow us to address the fundamental questions of how we make - in very practical terms - the right decisions in our daily lives, what values are ultimately the most important and what standards we may fairly and reasonably use in judging the actions of ourselves and others. There are no special rules for acting ethically in business that do not apply in other arenas as well, for common elements of ethical behavior span different specific kinds of behavior.

Indeed, professional ethics is one of those things that you probably learned in kindergarten. No, your kindergarten teacher probably didn't call it that, but the fundamental elements of business ethics are the same as the fundamental ethics of any set of circumstances, and these are so basic that most of us learned them early on in childhood.

One should speak the truth, treat others with respect, keep your promises, work hard, only make demands upon others that you would be willing to make upon yourself and remember to ask yourself on a regular basis how much something will matter in 20 years. Making a dangerous product that hurts or even kills somebody will matter a great deal 20 years into the future. A small rise in profits will not. And so when one comes to the point of having to choose between different courses, it is useful to think about which pathway will lead one to the future that one personally would feel most comfortable with.

References

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/olympics/134623764_oly29.html

http://www.cnn.com/U.S./9902/09/olympic.report.02/

http://www.mdnonprofit.org/ethics_initiative.htm

http://www.nonprofits.org/npofaq/16/59.html

http://www.olympic-usa.org/about_us/documents/ethics.htm

Joynor, J. "Corporate culture defines success." Competing Canada 27 (11): 26, December 18, 2001.

Monks, R. And Minow, N. (eds). (2001). Corporate Governance. London: Blackwell.

Kaplan, R. (2001) Warrior politics: Why leadership demands a pagan ethos. New York: Random House.

A www.business-ethics.org www.ethics.ubc.ca [END OF PREVIEW]

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