The importance of ethics in the restaurant and foodservice industry

What are Ethics?

Being ethical involves more than just obeying local and national laws. Being ethical also means having moral principles that guide your behavior. Stealing an employee’s idea and telling the boss it was yours, excluding some employees from departmental lunches, and telling ethnic jokes may not be illegal in all cases, but they certainly aren’t ethical. As one supervisor put it, “Being ethical is dong the right thing when nobody’s looking.” 

Having a sense of ethics also means that you can see the larger principle involved in small actions. For example, most restaurant employees would recognize that taking home a blender, kitchen knives, or a mixing bowl is theft. But do these same employees equally regard as theft such things as punching a time card for someone else, making personal calls on the operation’s toll-free lines, or taking food home? 

If you work at an operation where manager always tell the truth and trust each other, you may be working in an uncommonly ethical environment. According to recent surveys, today’s workers at all levels are increasingly disappointed in the ethical standards of the workplace. 

Ethics Start at the Top 

Business ethicists agree that without ethical leadership at the top of the organization, dishonesty multiplies rapidly in the lower ranks. Mangers who fail to communicate ethics to their employees send the unspoken message that it’s OK to cheat. That doesn’t mean that every employee will behave dishonestly. Instead, the honest ones will stay honest—but they will become demoralized and move on. 

Ethics Affect the Bottom Line 

When managers are unethical—or tolerate unethical behavior—business suffers. It’s very easy to rationalize small breaches of ethics by saying, “Who’ll ever notice?” or “Who’s it going to hurt?” or “It’s just a drop in the bucket.” But there’s a big connection between ethics and the bottom line. 

Consider the case study on the next page. Have you ever been tempted to use restaurant equipment or supplies for your personal use? If you did it on a regular basis, how much would it cost the restaurant each year? How much would it cost the restaurant if all your employees followed your example? 

How Well Do You Use Your Ethics, Coaching, and Diversity Skills? 

Take a few minutes to decide whether the statements below describe you. Respond honestly; no one will see your responses but you. 

  1. I model ethical behavior for my employees. 
  2. I act ethically even when no one will know about it. 
  3. I know what to do when I see an employee, a fellow supervisor, or a manager acting unethically.  
  4. I reward employees for ethical behavior.  
  5. I give my employees feedback on their performance. 
  6. I coach my employees on skills and attitudes. 
  7. I set realistic performance goals for my employees.
  8. I work with my employees to create action plans. 
  9. My employees can handle additional job duties. 
  10. I do not do work that my employees are supposed to do or could do. 
  11. I effectively delegate tasks to my employees. 
  12. I help create a work environment in which diversity is valued and rewarded. 
  13. I understand and connect with all of my employees and guests. 
  14. I improve workplace productivity through the creativity and innovation that come from employee diversity. 
  15. I help all of my employees feel wanted, needed, and valued. 

ServSafe Benefits is a hospitality hub built for industry workers.

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