How to Reward Employees for Following Ethical Standards

Rewarding ethical employees helps communicate your expectations and encourage the rest of the staff to strive to be rewarded too.
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The ethics of your organization affect your reputation, clients, employees and overall success. So encouraging and maintaining an ethical staff is essential for any workplace. It’s important to create ethical standards of excellence and reward employees who follow these standards.

Define and Communicate

    Many companies want their employees to be ethical but fail to clearly define what ethical excellence means specifically in their organization. Every office’s code of ethics will be different, so you and your leadership need to discuss and record what your company believes is important and worth rewarding. For example, consider your expectations of ethical communication, treatment of co-workers and clients and respect for company time, including personal breaks, phone and computer policies. Then share the code of ethics in an office-wide meeting-- employees are more likely to succeed if they know exactly what is expected of them from the start. Post your code of ethics in frequently visited places around the office, like the break room, so that employees are reminded daily.

Specific Praise

    Regardless of when or where you reward your employees, it’s important to give specific praise when doing so. Vague encouragements, like “nice work” and “good job”, don’t communicate enough -- your workers need to know exactly what they did well. Specific praise will enable and encourage your employees to continue doing the work they are being rewarded for because they are clear on what ethical standards they have met and how. This type of praise also makes your workers feel special and valued because it is thoughtful and individualized. For many, simply getting praised by their boss is a powerful reward and motivation to continue following ethical standards.


    Public recognition is a good way to reward your workers, because many employees love being recognized in front of their peers. Create an employee recognition program that rewards ethical employees in various ways and then announce the winners at office-wide meetings. When employees are recognized, have them come to the front of the room to get their prize while everyone claps. Smaller awards might include candy bars or certificates of appreciation. For bigger recognition, consider gift cards, lunch out with the boss or getting to leave early for the day. Using recognition will not only make your workplace environment fun and encouraging, it also shows your employees they’re progressing at work, which is a top motivator according to Harvard Business Review.


    Rewarding your workers with appreciation is effective and helps create strong relationships between you and your employees. Handwritten thank you notes are meaningful rewards for employees because it shows that you took the time to think of them personally. In your note, give specific praise but also express how her actions made you feel. Communicate how her ethical work positively impacts her co-workers and company on a bigger level too. For special occasions, accompany the thank you notes with gifts, such as cookies, a new coffee mug or movie tickets. When a hearty appreciation is called for, put a big thank you sign with the employee’s name in the lobby or break room.

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