The discussion of ethics in the workplace continues. About 80 percent of all companies — regardless of size — have formal ethics policies. Seminars on the subject are offered frequently. Compliance officers watch for possible red flags.

Here is what the latest research shows: The example of an employer is the single-best way to create an atmosphere that fosters moral behavior.

"A person's individual moral framework is only the third-most-important factor in deciding what they'll do. The most important thing is what does their boss do," says Dr. Marshall Schminke, a professor of business ethics at the University of Central Florida. "Workers look to their boss first for cues on what constitutes moral behavior. Second, they look at their peers and finally at their own moral code. The boss, and by that I mean the immediate supervisor, has a huge impact on ethical behavior."

Why, you've known that your entire life! It was your parents' example more than their lectures that taught you what was right and wrong. You reserved the word "hypocrite" for that deacon or Sunday School teacher who told lies, cursed when he smashed his finger, or told off-color stories at work. You've always said the person you respected most was the one who walked the talk, right?

The same thing you have learned about other people is true of you. For all the people you touch with your life, they pay far more attention to who you are than to what you say. And the really powerful life is the one in which the saying and the doing line up with each other.

Whether you are the company's CEO, sales manager, receptionist, or janitor, your personal integrity signals your expectations of others. Nobody who hears you fudge the truth or use a racial slur or take advantage a client will ever feel obliged to avoid those behaviors in working with you. On the other hand, when you are seen to keep your word and treat others with respect, your very behavior sets the tone for the actions of others.

On the phone with an unpleasant client, reacting to someone who cuts you off in the church parking lot, casual conversation before your children at the dinner table — you reveal more by your routine and ordinary actions than by your formal declarations. You show your true self. You have your greatest impact.

The same thing you have learned about other people is true of you.
Rules against darkness will never equal the power of a gentle ray of light.

[The apostle Paul said] Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)