Exploring the Role of Virtues in Determining Organizational Culture
The Institute for Global Ethics, known worldwide for its groundbreaking
work in the area of ethical decision-making, has recently completed a
planning project—funded by the John Templeton Foundation—on
the role of ethical values in building cultures of integrity. The project
is expected to be the forerunner of a much larger project aimed at testing
and refining a hypothetical culture of integrity model.
Working with best-practice organizations in the nonprofit, for profit,
and education sectors, IGE asked employees (and students) what they thought
made their organization a great place to work (or learn). Overwhelmingly,
for all three organizations, those interviewed said that:
- The organization is mission driven.
- Leadership is exemplary.
- The atmosphere at work is collegial.
- Communications are important and well handled.
- Quality of work is critical and everyone does their part.
During the survey portion of the project, respondents at all three organizations
confirmed IGE's previous research on the primary importance of five
core ethical values—honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness,
and compassion. There also was a high level of agreement that the core
values selected are shared by those with whom they work. Many examples
of values at work were offered. For example, respect was seen as behaving
in a culturally responsive manner to both clients and other employees.
One important finding was that ethical organizations appear to build in
processes and structures that translate values into organizational practices.
Leaders model ethical behavior and devise structures, for example, to
enhance communications both to and from employees. Mission is stated in
meaningful, positive terms and directed at some expressed greater good.
Colleagues trust each other, as well as leadership, and know how to work
together as a team.
A few other important factors were identified as contributing to the development
of a culture of integrity:
- Ethical organizations invest in their employees by integrating new employees
carefully into the organization, by providing opportunities for learning
and advancement, and by recognizing exemplary employee achievements and
contributions to the whole.
- Ethical organizations support service beyond self, such as reaching out
beyond the requirements of the mission and encouraging employees and students
to volunteer in the broader community.
- They tend as well to have a longer time horizon. They look to the needs
of the future and make decisions based not on short-term results, but
on doing the right thing long term.
The Institute looks forward to continuing this research. The goal is to
investigate how core values, organizational processes, and organizational
structures—the building blocks of organizational integrity—might
best be configured to ensure a culture of integrity.