The term “tone from the top” is usually used to describe the way that directors create the atmosphere in which an ethical approach to business is promoted or where dodgy behaviour is allowed to exist.

Not actively encouraging ethical behaviour can lead to turning a blind eye. Where there is a highly driven approach to the quest for more sales or profit there can be a fertile breeding ground for dubious practices; which in extreme circumstances can become endemic.

A4E has recently been in the news and could be a case in point.  It is reported that spurious claims were made across the country for putting people in jobs that did not exist; the BBC reported that  “staff saw ‘nothing wrong’ with filling in forms that should be completed by the employer for the claim to be valid”.  How could something like that be so widespread?  How had senior management set the tone?   Did staff know the boundaries? and were there clear channels for reporting unacceptable behaviour? …. Or did the end justify the means?  .

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the drive for more sales and profit, far from it, but there are boundaries in the way they are achieved!   Apart from playing things straight being the right thing to do, invariably dodgy practices have a habit of biting (as may be the case with A4E), they also can be disconcerting and de-motivating for staff.

Tone from the top also has a hugely important role to play in achieving positive outcomes.  If the focus is just on sales, will the goods or services be delivered profitably? and will they really help the business generate cash or could they even be a drain on cash flow?  Again the tone from the top has a huge part to play.  In short if the bosses don’t focus on profits and cash then why should the staff?

What do you wish for your business?  What is important to you? How are you setting the tone?

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