Being Open with Workers to Promote Ethical Behavior from Management Down

Part of the Business Ethics For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Most business leaders face the perennial problem of encouraging their employees to think like owners. Open book management, the practice of sharing financial and other information with your workers, can help you get more from your staff — more productivity, more concern about the company’s well-being, and more ethical behavior.

To get the most out of open book management, be sure to add these elements:

  • Profit sharing: The goal of open book management is to get employees thinking like business owners, and sharing the company’s profits with employees is a common way to foster that sense of ownership.

  • Team or work-group structures: Having cohesive small work groups is one major key to increasing productivity. Employees who feel unconnected to their colleagues are less satisfied with their jobs and may be more prone to misbehave.

  • A culture of top-down respect for each employee’s contributions, skills, and talents: Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn says the most important people in his organization are the door attendants, because they’re the first ones patrons interact with when they come to a Wynn property. Avoid getting hung up on corporate titles, and instead look at what each employee does every day to help your company succeed.

  • A “what can we learn from this” approach to mistakes: Sure, you need to take corrective action when something goes wrong, but don’t limit your corrections to disciplining the person who made the mistake. Invite opinions and ideas on how to prevent repeat incidents without stifling creativity or innovation.

Companies that have successfully implemented open book management include Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, Kindermusik International, and Nucor Corporation.

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