Employees who are strongly motivated to prioritize the needs of customers tend to adopt more ethical attitudes.
Companies need to actively seek individuals who will notice and speak up when ethical challenges surface, says author David De Cremer for an article on HBR.org.
He suggests screening job applicants on the following 6 traits to help you develop a blueprint for the kind of employee who will endorse, shape and push ethical culture.
You want employees who will notice when something unethical is happening. Individuals with this trait are careful, reflective, reliable and responsible organizational citizens. Research shows that conscientiousness is positively associated with higher levels of moral reasoning.
2. Moral attentiveness
This describes the extent to which individuals are aware of the various ethical dilemmas at hand. A morally attentive person will see ethical issues where others may see none. It may be obvious, but being aware of ethical dilemmas is the prerequisite to talking about it.
3. Duty orientation
Individuals with a strong sense of duty tend to be loyal, mission-oriented and motivated. Research has shown that a high sense of duty orientation leads employees to voice their concerns about a problem and take action more quickly.
4. Customer orientation
Employees who are strongly motivated to prioritize the needs of customers tend to adopt more ethical attitudes. Employees who value others needs as highly as their own have fewer conflicts in relationships. They are more likely to notice and address challenges that violate ethical rules and expectations. Research shows that those serving qualities make customer-oriented sales agents engage in less unethical behavior.
Although assertive individuals can sometimes be regarded as grating, assertiveness is essential in building ethical cultures. In any group, the pressure to conform is high, so the default is to not question decisions – much less ethically questionable ones. Assertive employees are the ones who can prevent groupthink by standing up to the pressures of conformity.
Individuals with a proactive personality feel less constrained by situational forces and have a tendency to be active in keeping a moral course. Research shows that employees with a proactive personality engage more often in whistle blowing. Other research says this to be even more likely in cases where the companies’ ethical values conflict with what’s happening. Proactive personalities are extremely useful in stressing the importance of an ethical culture, voicing ethical failures and protecting company integrity.