Rewarding Ethical Behaviour Reduces Misconduct

17 February, 2021

It’s not rocket science: misconduct and unethical behaviour must have visible accountability in order for employees to take these matters seriously and modify their behaviours. But what about the flip side?

Approaching the problem of workplace misconduct from another angle, it is known that rewards for ethical behaviour reduce problematic behaviour, especially when combined with a corporate Code of Ethics and ethics training. How can an organisation create such a reward system? 

Interestingly, most companies already have a system in place to make this happen, it just needs a few modifications. This system is the Employee Performance Review. These reviews generally use a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) or OKR (Objectives and Key Results) approach with employees measured on specified outcomes, based on goals, at periodic intervals. Common measures are quantitative outputs such as volumes of sales, customers, or reports. Importantly, there is room to include ethics-oriented performance appraisal content to these Reviews so that ethical behaviour can be both recognized and rewarded. 

Ethical behaviour aligns with the company’s Code of Ethics, mission, and values. One component of this is professionalism and this can take many forms such as interactions with colleagues, as well as clients/customers. Corporate analysis of customers’ narrative feedback about the employee is one example of measurement.   

Customer narratives often contain verbiage pertaining to ethical virtues and behaviours such as trust, honesty, truth-telling, punctuality, kindness, and empathy. KPI goal-setting which is linked to “professionalism” and customer narratives would be a potentially rewarding experience for both the employee and the organisation. Both stakeholders gain insight about ethical performance from multiple third-parties, and the employee can gain a financial reward (e.g., bonus or paygrade increase) for their positive performance. 

Another example using the Employee Performance Review system is a manager/supervisor launching a thank you note or praise note system for their employees – this is an example of collegiality and mentoring and it sets a positive tone in the workplace. The manager/supervisor could potentially gain a bonus or paygrade increase for their system implementation (and the downstream consequences of impacting employee morale and motivation). 

If you’d like to learn more about helpful approaches to organisational ethics, get in touch with Your Call’s Head of Advisory, Katrina Bramstedt PhD, hello@yourcall.com.au