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A Lesson from a Letter: The Importance of Upholding a Moral Code in Organizations

The Importance of a Moral Code

Just when you think you've seen it all, a cartel goes and gives all organizations a lesson on how to uphold a strict moral code.

In recent news, a Mexican cartel responsible for the armed kidnapping that resulted in the deaths of two American tourists and a Mexican woman in Matamoros, Mexico, issued an apology letter and handed over five members to local authorities. While the cartel's moral code may be unconventional and unethical, this recent action demonstrates the importance of organizations having a moral code that they uphold.

Organizations, whether they be small businesses or large corporations, need a set of principles that guide their actions and decisions. These principles should align with ethical standards and societal expectations. By establishing a moral code, organizations create a foundation for trust and respect with their employees, customers, and stakeholders. A moral code reiterates that an organization has standards that they are not willing to compromise and that they will not make exceptions for anyone.

Leaders play a critical role in upholding the moral code of their organization. It is their responsibility to ensure that their actions align with the organization's values and that the organization is held accountable for any ethical violations. When executives make mistakes, they should be willing to take responsibility and be held accountable for their actions.

The recent actions of a Mexican cartel demonstrate that even organizations with twisted moral codes can take steps towards accountability and responsibility. If a cartel, known for its violence and disregard for human life, can issue an apology and hold members accountable for their actions, then all organizations should be able to do the same. Easy? No. But, necessary? Yes.

The Consequences of Not Upholding a Moral Code

Having a moral code is not only the right thing to do, but it also has practical benefits for organizations. A strong moral code can improve employee morale, attract loyal customers, and increase overall trust in the organization. Whereas not upholding a moral code can have serious consequences for an organization.

Here are a few potential outcomes:

  1. Loss of trust: When an organization fails to uphold its moral code, it risks losing the trust of its employees, customers, and stakeholders. Trust is essential to building strong relationships and can take years to rebuild once it has been lost.

  2. Damage to reputation: Ethical violations can damage an organization's reputation, leading to negative publicity, boycotts, and a loss of business. It can take years for an organization to repair its reputation once it has been tarnished.

  3. Legal consequences: Depending on the nature of the ethical violation, an organization may face legal consequences, such as fines, lawsuits, and criminal charges. These consequences can be costly and time-consuming, and may even lead to bankruptcy.

  4. Loss of talent: Organizations that fail to uphold their moral code may find it difficult to attract and retain top talent. Employees who value ethics and morality may choose to work elsewhere, leaving the organization with a less talented and motivated workforce.

  5. Financial losses: Ethical violations can lead to financial losses, whether through fines, lost business, or legal fees. These losses can have a long-lasting impact on an organization's bottom line.

Organizations that value their long-term success and sustainability must prioritize upholding their moral code and take swift action to address any violations.

How to Establish a Moral Code Developing a high moral code can seem like a daunting task, but it is a necessary step for any organization that wants to be successful and respected. Here are some steps that can be taken to develop a high moral code:

  1. Identify core values: Organizations should start by identifying their core values. These are the guiding principles that define the organization's purpose and identity. These values should be aligned with the organization's mission and vision.

  2. Create a code of conduct: Once core values have been identified, a code of conduct should be created. This code should outline the ethical standards that the organization expects its employees, stakeholders, and partners to adhere to and must align with all other policies and procedures.

  3. Communicate the code of conduct: It is not enough to create a code of conduct. It must be communicated to everyone in the organization, from the top-down. This can be done through training programs, employee handbooks, and other forms of communication.

  4. Lead by example: Leaders and executives must set an example by upholding the organization's moral code. They must be held accountable for their actions, just like any other employee.

  5. Establish reporting mechanisms: Organizations should establish reporting mechanisms that allow employees, stakeholders, and partners to report any ethical violations. This can be done through hotlines, anonymous reporting systems, and other mechanisms.

  6. Review and update the code of conduct: The code of conduct should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it remains relevant and effective. This can be done through surveys, audits, and other forms of evaluation.

  7. Enforce consequences for ethical violations: Upholding a moral code requires consequences for violations. Organizations should establish a clear set of consequences for ethical violations, including disciplinary action, termination, and legal consequences when appropriate. These consequences should be communicated clearly to all employees, stakeholders, and partners. Enforcing consequences sends a strong message that ethical violations will not be tolerated and reinforces the importance of upholding the moral code. It also helps to build trust and respect with stakeholders who see that the organization takes its moral code seriously.

In conclusion, organizations must have a moral code that guides their actions and decisions. Executives and leaders play a critical role in upholding this code and ensuring accountability for any ethical violations. Even organizations with unconventional or outlandish moral codes can take steps towards accountability and responsibility. By upholding a strong moral code, organizations can build trust and respect with their employees, customers, and stakeholders, ultimately leading to a more successful and sustainable organization.


Dr. Wanita Mercer, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of Lead My Heart, an executive coaching and consulting company specializing in equipping executives and executive teams to live and lead with purpose, passion, and power. She has a Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in organizational leadership, and she is a certified life coach, change management specialist, project management specialist, and management executive. She has over 15 years of experience as an international educator, motivational speaker, author, and civic leader. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.


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