Designing and Managing Ethical Organizations


By Denis Collins, Professor of Management, Edgewood College

denis127So, you want to create heaven on earth! Unificationists are well aware that people should be at their spiritual best all the time — which means at work too. We spend a great deal of our time on earth working. Some Unificationists have created businesses, some work in church businesses, and others work hard for non-member businesses and organizations.

Unfortunately, work is often organized in a way that is spiritually stifling and degrading. Everyone is morally flawed and, as such, we do things at work that damage, rather than heal and grow, our spirits. For instance, employees are sometimes tempted, or instructed, to mislead customers about product quality, or to treat each other disrespectfully.

Yet business owners and managers possess a unique position to significantly impact the spiritual development of others and, in the process, heal themselves by designing ethical organizations and reinforcing ethical behaviors at work. Unificationists, grounded in church providential theory, should be at the forefront of designing and managing ethical organizations.

How can organizations be designed to maximize ethical behaviors that help people spiritually flourish? This question was one of the reasons why I quit my corporate job in 1978 and joined the Unification Church. It remained on my mind while studying at Unification Theological Seminary from 1980-83, and it has dominated my teaching, writing and research for more than 20 years as a professor of business ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Bridgeport, and now Edgewood College.

I have developed a systematic Optimal Ethics Systems Model based on the 90 best practices in business ethics, sorted into eleven integrated elements. The model begins with determining the ethics of job candidates and then orienting them to the organization’s code of ethics and ethical decision-making process. It recommends conducting ethics and diversity training on at least an annual basis and implementing an ethics reporting system. Managers must model ethical leadership, and work with employees in developing ethical work goals and performance appraisals.

The last three elements of the model include adopting the best practices for environmental management and community outreach, and assessing the performance of each element. By systematically implementing all the Optimal Ethics Systems Model elements, an organization will not only attract employees desiring to experience spiritual transformation through work on a daily basis, but also have in place structures, policies, and processes that will aid employees with their daily spiritual development and engage them in a transcendent vision (An assessment checklist of the 90 best practices is available upon request by emailing the author).

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