A recent poll showed a majority (64 per cent) of respondents believe that all employees have a responsibility to be ethical in business, with 20 per cent holding the company responsible for establishing a strong code of conduct.Entitled 'Ethical Leadership: Views from the Mena region', and conducted by Bayt.com and the Canadian University Dubai (CUD), the poll demonstrated the importance of leaders' role in setting the right example, creating an environment that encourages good corporate citizenship, and in motivating employees to perform better and more innovatively.
This poll takes a look at a distinct type of leadership - ethical leadership - where leaders are both moral people and moral managers. It was conducted between September 18 and October 14, 2015 with respondents from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia, the UAE, and Yemen.
When asked to define what business ethics meant to them, almost half of the surveyed respondents (47 per cent) held a legalistic view, i.e. conducting business according to the legal requirements and not breaking laws, while 37 per cent related it to being socially responsible.
To gauge whether managers in Mena engage in ethical decision-making processes, the poll asked respondents whether their managers make fair and balanced decisions. Of the poll respondents 43 per cent said 'sometimes', while more than a third (36 per cent) think their managers are 'usually' fair in their decision-making processes.
Based on the poll results, the majority of managers in Mena are not of the view that the ends justify the means. In fact, almost 6 in every 10 respondents (58 per cent) agree that their managers define success not just by results, but also by the way results are obtained.
Ethics outside workplace
When asked whether their managers conduct themselves in an appropriate manner outside the workplace, 39 per cent of respondents said 'yes, most of the time'. A majority of poll respondents felt that their managers had their best interests in mind at least 'some of the time' (27 per cent) or to 'a large extent' (39 per cent). On the other hand, a third felt that their managers did not care about their best interests with 21.5 per cent stating that their managers 'never' had their best interests in mind and 12.5 per cent responding 'rarely'.
On a positive note, 70.5 per cent of respondents confirmed that their managers listen to them, with 38.5 per cent saying they listen 'to a large extent'. However, almost a third (29.5 per cent) hardly ever have the opportunity to be heard by their managers.
Leaders lead by example
When employees were asked if their managers set an example of how to do things ethically, almost half (45 per cent) of the respondents conveyed that managers are 'often' good role models in displaying ethical behavior, with the other half split between only doing so 'sometimes'(29 per cent), 'rarely' (14 per cent) or 'never' (12 per cent). According to the poll, 62 per cent of managers discuss business ethics and values with their employees, with 28 per cent discussing them 'often'.
Moreover, disciplinary procedures when employees breach ethics standards do exist. In fact, 72 per cent of respondents say that their managers discipline or reprimand employees for violating ethics standards; of these, 28 per cent do so occasionally.
When asked whether they consider their manager to be an ethical leader, close to half (46 per cent) said 'yes, to a large extent', while a quarter thought so, but only 'some of the time'.
"In terms of ethical leadership, we can conclude that managers set the tone for how the entire company runs on a day-to-day basis. When the prevailing management philosophy is based on ethical practices and behavior, leaders within an organization can direct employees by example and guide them in making decisions that are not only profitable, but also ethical," said Suhail Masri, VP - Employer Solutions, Bayt.com. "It is important to recognize that being ethical is not just about doing what is required by law, but living by moral values in both your personal and professional life."
Jeanette Teh, Assistant Professor, Canadian University Dubai, said: "In general, the poll results indicate an awareness of the importance of ethics in business by the respondents and their managers although there is room for improvement in certain aspects. More specifically, there needs to be more explicit training and communication about ethical issues and in the decision-making processes of managers to ensure more emphasis on ethical principles over profit."