Do you consider your employees family? Do your employees feel the same? Some small businesses are happy to say that their office is like a family. But is that always a good thing? Normally, the phrase “I really love the family atmosphere at work” seems ideal, but things can go awry quite easily. Are you treating employees as that estranged member of the family who has shown up at the most inopportune time? Take a step back and put yourself in your employee’s shoes. Does working in a family atmosphere mean employees may not get paid on time? Does it mean employees have to lie to customers or cover up the truth?
Business owners are responsible for keeping the business afloat. We cannot put that responsibility on employees (family or not). By putting employees in these awkward types of situations, business owners create a hostile atmosphere and have less productive employees. It’s important to create a business ethics code in order to foster a positive working environment for everyone.
There are countless examples of employers requiring “off-the-clock” tasks or delaying or denying reimbursements. Of course, there is always a seemingly justifiable reason, whether it is to make this quarter’s numbers, to deliver to a customer on time or to meet general business expenses. None of which are valid reasons to cheat employees. Running a business ethically may require us to do the very thing that is less enticing in the short run. However, the long-term consequences of having employees take part in your sacrifice for the good of the company will lead to low employee morale, potential legal concerns and loss of profit.
Successful business owners obey the law in all of their interactions. This is true internally, as well as externally. Simply put, ethics is doing the right thing. But it extends beyond that to: do the right thing—even when it may cost more, you may lose out or it’s not the popular thing to do.
Have you thought of holding on to an employee’s commission check to help with other business expenses? Well, just know that when an employee has a commission contract with you, the employee is entitled to the money by the fact that they made the sales. It is not optional and is considered a wage payment. Many states have a law that indicates earned wages must be paid. By not paying your employee’s earned commission, you are breaking the law.
Your customers want to deal with ethical companies. Many corporations will immediately cease working with suppliers that are not paying their employees or subcontractors, or if they are found to practice unethical or illegal behavior. The reports of unethical supplier behavior come from many places—your competitors, your other customers and your employees. One thing for sure is that people talk and word gets around fast. Keep your dealings ethical and legal so that your name will not be associated with the negative talk of unethical behavior.
To begin creating your own ethics code, brainstorm the things you would not do to get or keep a client. Get opinions from your employees, and set the culture of your company by acting ethically and obeying the law.
In the end, treating employees in a professional manner will create a positive working relationship, and encourage a creative atmosphere. Acting ethically helps to set the real culture of your company. It creates an environment where people are willing to speak their minds and feel valued. This is the true meaning of a family atmosphere, where everyone feels welcome. Your employees are happy to see you coming and hate to see you leave.