ETHICS / Tone at the top vs Tone in the middle

Excerpt from session:

A company that has “tone at the top” may be reducing a serious risk – that is, misconduct in the C-Suite. At the same time, by embracing “tone at the top”, company should find a way to connect their leaders – especially the CEO – with people inside and outside the organization. Leaders must openly and continually communicate their values, using different platforms and distribution systems.
So, the overall health of the company is not only about whether senior management gives lip service to embracing the culture, but how they have acted to drive it and how is this reflected in the actions taken by everyone in the company. The real ethical culture should be expressed every day by the actions of officers, managers and all employees who have to be dedicated to promoting an ethical culture. In other words, a company’s culture is reflected in the values and beliefs that exist throughout the company.

How to achieve that? Who’s in position to take the key messages from the C-suite down the hall? Who should be an integration point between the company code of conduct and everyday decision-making?

The answer is – middle management. Middle management represent a visible extension of the “tone at the top” and indivisible part of ethics and compliance program. Message being delivered by them, often referred to as a “tone in the middle”, is crucial. They are catalyst for shaping an ethical organizational culture on the foundation of ethics and compliance program. They are in strong position to help initiate conversations about complex compliance themes, such as respect in the workplace, navigating the pitfalls of social media or fostering a “speak up” environment. By having “tone in the middle”, company’s ethics and compliance program is shifting from rules-based decision-making to values-based decision-making, combined with policies and procedures that are framed by “tone at the top” and leadership commitment to compliance and active modeling of ethical behavior.

Main Takeaways:

  • Importance of C-suite and middle management when crafting corporate culture
  • Ways to measure the tone at the top
  • Ways to measure the tone in the middle