In each IntegrityStar edition, we highlight some frequently asked questions. In this fifteenth edition, we offer the following questions but this time, we are asking you to think about how you would answer the questions.
For guidance on compliance and ethics in the workplace, or if you have questions or need advice, please contact University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’ve read the UCF Code of Conduct, seen the videos, attended the training. You’ve spent the required time learning enough about the Code and policies to stay out of trouble. That’s important, but is it enough? Are you using what you’ve learned to make better decisions? Did anything really change after you completed your training, or could you be doing more to apply what you’ve learned to your job?
Sometimes, we think that our individual actions won’t make much of a difference. Our responsibilities aren’t big enough to affect the whole university, and besides, isn’t it up to management to make changes? Management did take the first step by making sure that all employees had training about the importance of compliance and ethics. The next step is up to you.
Take a Closer Look
Before you can make changes, you need to take a look at what’s going on around you. How would you answer these questions, both for yourself and for others in your workplace?
- What is the overall atmosphere in the office? Do people work as a team? Do they treat each other with respect, even when there’s a conflict? Is the work environment healthy and safe?
- Are associations with outside contacts, such as vendors, contractors, or suppliers, completely honest and ethical? Remember to look not only at actions or intentions, but at the way those actions might be perceived by others.
- Are you using the university’s resources responsibly and safely?
- In your personal life, do you have any interests, financial or otherwise, that might be in conflict with your job or with the university?
- Are you completely familiar with any special laws or policies that apply specifically to your job?
- Is there something that doesn’t feel quite right, but you’ve never questioned it because you thought someone would say “we’ve always done it that way” or “it’s no big deal”?
Take a few minutes to jot down some notes about these questions. When you size up your list, you’ll begin to see where you can take action. If you discover a serious issue, where a law or regulation is being broken or someone’s safety or security is at risk, report it immediately.
If you found in your answers that there are no issues to be concerned about, great job! However, if you’ve uncovered some “gray areas” or areas where things have been overlooked for a while, they may seem fairly harmless on the surface, but remember that small things can add up to big trouble. All of our actions contribute to the overall reputation and atmosphere of the university. Ironically, the small things are often the easiest to correct, if only someone will take the time to do so.
A Plan of Action
If you have found there’s nothing to worry about, set aside some time to celebrate and recognize your area’s accomplishments!
If you found areas to improve upon, review your list and select two or three items to address. It may not seem like much, but it’s better to achieve a small goal than it is to make big plans that are never accomplished. When you reach your goals, you can always come back to the list and do more.
If the solution to the issue is clear, write it down. For example, if your job is governed by special regulations that you haven’t read since your new-hire training, your plan might say, “Review the bidding procedures for purchasing items.”
Don’t be intimidated if the solution seems to require a change that’s beyond your control, such as a revision in existing responsibilities or procedures or additional training. Work the solution through and present it to your supervisor or manager, along with your reasons for suggesting the change. Our university is committed to doing the right thing.
Sometimes a solution feels out of our control because the problem involves others. For instance, people may be in the habit of gossiping or telling off color jokes during lunch. Try to come up with one thing that you can do to improve the situation. Maybe you can change the subject at lunch when the jokes begin, or politely state that you find them offensive. Your action doesn’t have to be heroic or dramatic, but if nothing is said or done, nothing will change.
If you’re not sure how to handle an issue, seek help from your supervisor, Human Resources, the Ombuds Office, or contact University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk.
Attending compliance and ethics training is an important step in our personal and professional growth. But don’t just “check the box” that says you completed. Follow through and make changes that put the principles into daily practice.
If you take the time to evaluate your situation and write a plan of action, you are likely to achieve positive results. Don’t forget to share those results during your performance evaluation. If your supervisor wasn’t involved in your plan or actions, be sure to tell him or her about your compliance and ethics goals and achievements. Chances are, he or she will be pleased to see that you’re serious about applying what you’ve learned.