The development of codes of ethics in America’s corporate sector is reactive: mostly established after gross misconduct, with the sole aim of constraining employee behavior. For instance, the 70s wave of global bribery scandals saw a sustained period of code development, which subsided after the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (Messicomer and Cirka 57). However, the subsequent rise of scandals in the financial industry saw another round of accelerated code of ethics developed in the corporate world. Even so, corporate misconducts have become prevalent, challenging the effectiveness of the code of ethics. Messikomer and Cirka argue that the development process influences the effectiveness of the code of ethics (56). The duo examines the construction process of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) code of ethics, which they posit is a significant model for organizations looking to grow ethically. Their work highlights the importance of group consensus and the identification of core organizational values in the development of a code of ethics.
NASMM leaders embarked of the journey of code development only a year after the company’s inception. The process adhered to Newton’s (1994) principles of participation, validity, and authenticity. Newton contends that the “real value of the code does not lie in the finished product but in the process in which it all came to be.” (Newton and Ford 87)The leaders strived to build “…a set of fundamental, strategically sound beliefs” that would influence the industry’s ethical stance (Messikomer and Cirka 57). The first principle of participation features three phases: an examination of conscience, the discovery of community consensus, and collective decisions regarding the perceptions of the final code (Newton 86). The entire membership of NASMM was involved in the development process, including pre-conference planning and code design and drafting, which took two years.
The validity principle requires the finished product and the content to be value-based and align with ethical principles. Significant issues like a race of employees should be addressed in the content. The authenticity of code is manifested in the accurate definition of the organization, differentiating it from competitors. In 2003, NASMM recruited authors to train individuals on ethics during the first annual conference. Leaders sought to identify the company’s core values and principles that would guide the development process. The explored factors include the organization’s history, its vision, and mission, membership details, a summary of board activities, a sample of ethical issues in the industry, and expected outcomes.
Exercises performed during the conferences were categorized into three clusters: key values identified by small groups; key values identified by at least one sub-group; and the key values identified through literature review (Messikomer and Cirka 61). Groups were then assigned ten values each and asked to write one or two-sentence statement of principle regarding the core value. The statements articulated the guidelines for behavior and summarized an ethical dilemma of the core value. The SHRM Tool Kit (SHRM, 2001) was utilized in this process. Statements contained basic truth, motivating force, and the rationale underlying the principle. Experiential examples of ethical issues facing managers were also included.Furthermore, the team analyzed samples of the code of ethics of other organizations for further evaluations on content and form. The comparison process revealed the codes vary in the scope and depth of the addressed behaviors, the invoked values, and the number and type of principles described. The team also discovered that no code is perfect.
After the second conference, the team constructed the draft code on the foundation of the principles, values, and guidelines for the identified behaviors. Finally, NASMM’s founders launched the code development process that formulated a value-based code of ethics and embedded ethical behavior in everyday activities (Messikomer and Cirka 65). Ongoing self-evaluation was incorporated into the ethics program to reinforce NASMM’s values. The process features reports and reviews of ethical discussions, transgressions, and challenges, as well as their management. Additionally, the evaluation process captures and disseminates ethical learning and socialization practices as well as ongoing training to assess and enhance the knowledge of the code. The organization’s leadership continues to demonstrate an undying devotion to ethics as a guiding principle in the company. However, the company has rapidly expanded since the development of the code, challenging its enforcement. In response, leaders partner with various individuals and institutions in establishing research strategies to evaluate the use and effectiveness of NASMM’s code of ethics.
NASMM’s code of ethics was developed based on Newton’s three principles of the development of a code of ethics to ensure its effectiveness. Participation is manifested in the inclusion of the entire NASMM team in all processes, while the feature of validity is reflected in the values that are consistent with ethical principles. The code, adhering to the authenticity principle, set the company apart from its competitor. This explains why, presently, NASMM stands out in decent performance. Clarifying the core values of the company is crucial in the code development process. NASMM’s success reveals that the process of code development greatly influences its effectiveness. There is, therefore, need for a proactive approach to the process to ensure that the policy delivers the expected results.
Messikomer, Carla, Masciocchi and Cirka, Carol, Cabrey. “Constructing Code of Ethics: An Experiential Case of a National Professional Organization.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 95, pp.55-71. 2010. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-009-0347-y. 6 July 2015.
Newton, Lisa, H. and Maureen, Ford, M. “The Many Faces of the Corporate Code.” Taking Sides: Clashing View on Controversial Issues in Business Ethics and Society. Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 1994. Https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=CuAO_6hZOjMC&q=taking+sides:+clashing+views+on+controversial+issues+in+business+ethics+and+society&dq=taking+sides:+clashing+views+on+controversial+issues+in+business+ethics+and+society&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi4jN74vaDjAhWTfMAKHSj_BisQ6AEIMzAD. 6 July 2019.