Skip main navigation

Ethics in the corporate world

Looking at the code of ethics and guidelines for employees concerning their expected behavior.

In order to provide guidelines for employees concerning their expected behavior, most major retailers have developed a code of ethics.

Corporate codes of ethics

These written statements usually provide employees with general guidelines for making decisions; some also define forbidden behaviors. Macy’s, Inc. specifically spells out its corporate policies of expected behaviors for each associate in terms of discrimination, conflicts of interests, use of drugs and alcohol, personal use of equipment during work hours, and the disclosure of confidential company information. In the next step we will explore Macy’s, Inc. corporate policies and positions concerned with individual associate behavior.

Experts agree that creating strong ethical environments should be the top priority of all companies, even those without formal ethics programs. However, the mere existence of an ethical code alone will not positively affect employee behavior if the company does not actually promote the ethical culture outlined. In other words, it is the company’s obligation to see that their ethical codes are recognized, followed, and modeled in the behavior of management.

Results of the 2018 Global Business Ethics Survey showed when organizations prioritize integrity, they benefit from employees who are less likely to feel pressure to violate ethics standards, less likely to observe misconduct, more likely to report misconduct they observe, and less likely to experience retaliation for reporting.

The previous discussion highlights the importance of making sure you are in the right work environment so that you are less likely to witness behavior that makes you uncomfortable. You should never underestimate the importance of a good job fit, and moreover, one of the major contributing factors to a bad job fit can be holding opposing views on etiquette or ethics. Although many people do not feel comfortable reporting unethical behavior, Ryan (2006) provides some suggestions about what employees can do when they encounter tough situations at work.

She suggests that people listen to themselves and heed “gut” feelings. Second, she advises that if something does not feel right, it is probably a good idea to simply say, “I feel uncomfortable with this [decision/action].”

Stating this will be more difficult for some people than others, but for the person who does speak up, it may be easier to live with that decision. The cost of not saying anything includes living with the regret of not doing what the person believed to be the right thing. In situations where unethical behaviors are scrutinized, people who were aware but silent can be held responsible by their companies for harboring important information and may face negative career repercussions.

Of course, only the employee can know about his or her particular situation and what consequences speaking up may likely bring. If that person is in a positive environment, while speaking up may make others uncomfortable or frustrated, the person is likely to be rewarded in the long run for following the company’s ethical code.

You should never underestimate the importance of a good job fit, and moreover, one of the major contributing factors to a bad job fit can be holding opposing views on etiquette or ethics. You will explore ethics in the industry by learning about an incident that took place at Macy’s.

This article is from the free online

Business and Workplace Ethics in the Fashion Industry

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now