People Ethics

Welcome to guest author John Stanko, who, along with Jim Dittmar, have written a new book launching later this month titled, The LEADERS Model: Essential Practices for Today’s Leaders. ~ Jennifer

Guest post by John W. Stanko

I have worked with many nonprofits over the years, including some churches, and have found them for the most part to be fiscally responsible. In fact, some have been downright frugal (dare I say cheap), being meticulous to care and account for every expense, thus ensuring that they earn and keep the trust of donors and supporters. Yet I have found these same groups that are so careful with money are not always so careful with their human resources. They will pay whatever the utility company says they owe without questions, but sometimes don’t pay their employees very well, the people who work hard and make the organization go and grow.

The same holds true in the for-profit sector. Companies will invest in infrastructure as needed but won’t do the same for their employees, even though they have a values statement that reads something like this: “Our people are our most important resource.” What’s more, these companies may devote little energy and time getting to know their workers so they can put them in a position where those workers have a reasonable chance to express the best of who they are while doing meaningful work. This waste of human capital is not just bad business, it’s ethically flawed because we don’t have well-developed people philosophy that sees workers as more than inputs if we want certain outputs. “If they aren’t happy here, they can leave and we will replace them tomorrow.”

We in the workplace have begun to pay attention to matters like bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination but we still ignore the fact that the vast majority of workers are moderately to actively disengaged in their work (according to annual Gallup polls). What we need is to have the same view toward people that we do toward physical resources. We must be committed to neither wasting them nor deploying them in a manner that doesn’t take advantage of their unique skillset and experience.

At the end of the day, this lack of people ethics is a leadership issue (isn’t everything?). It’s the mentality that “I have Wall Street or the government regulators or the pandemic to be concerned about. I don’t have time for these ‘people’ issues.” Yet how much time would it take to have a brief meeting to ask, “Are you happy in what you do? Is there anything you would rather be doing for which you feel more qualified? In what way can we (the organization) better utilize you?” It’s possible that the organization won’t be able to act upon every answer the employee gives. Even so, when a leader asks these types of questions, the responses hold clues to help unlock a person’s potential And then, not only does that person win, but the company wins as well.

Have you thought about your people ethics beyond the obvious things for which you can get in trouble with the law or courts? Perhaps it’s time to do so and see how to tap into the greatest resource at your disposal: the people who come to work or volunteer to do the work that needs to be done and done well.

About the author: John W. Stanko is the founder of Urban Press, a publishing service designed to tell stories of the city, from the city and to the city. John is the author of 50 books, including The LEADERS Model: Essential Practices for Today’s Leaders, which he co-authored with Jim Dittmar, the founder, president, and CEO of 3Rivers Leadership Institute.

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