MAMARONECK, N.Y., Dec. 3, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- In few corporate areas does "setting an example" matter quite as much as it does in ethics. And no single person's example is more critical than the CEO's.
At Xerox Corporation (Norwalk, CT), the company expects its senior management to "live" its values, "and we expect our employees to witness that," says Patricia M. Nazemetz, the company's chief ethics officer.
Along these lines, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns works hard to set an example, Nazemetz tells Ethikos, a bimonthly publication that has focused on business ethics issues since 1987. Burns makes herself accessible to employees—as did Anne Mulcahy, CEO before her. She holds town meetings and roundtables, and she eats lunch with employees in the company cafeteria—actions that lead to "unfiltered" face-to-face discussions with employees. The implicit message: "I'm here, and I'm listening, and you can tell me anything."
At smaller organizations, this may not be so unusual, but at companies the size of Xerox—a $22 billion company with 130,000 employees in 160 countries—the CEO often subsists in a kind of bubble. His or her corner office becomes an inner sanctum.
When the CEO does "go out," the leader is often managed by "handlers." Just as people don't walk up to the president of the United States for a casual chat, people don't approach big-time corporate CEOs informally. Town meetings are one way that Burns "keeps in touch," notes Nazemetz.
There are other ways Xerox' senior management team seeks to set an example with regard to ethics and compliance. Senior managers undergo code of conduct training before the rest of the company. The message here: Senior management signed up for it, they've done it, and they have a plan to "cascade" it through the company. They are the first to sign code certification forms.
How and why Xerox structures its ethics program as it does is the subject of the lead story in Ethikos' November/December 2010 issue. (The article can be viewed online at http://EthikosPublication.com/html/xerox.html.)
Now in its 24th year, Ethikos (www.EthikosPublication.com) takes a unique case-study approach to corporate ethics. Recent issues have included profiles of Cummins Inc., General Electric, Fluor, Coca-Cola, Cisco, McDonald's, British Telecom, Tyco, Duke Energy, KPMG, and Novartis, among others. To see selected recent articles go to: http://www.ethikospublication.com/html/selectedarticles.html