One of the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley rules for publicly traded companies is that they demonstrate that they are promoting an "ethical culture" in the workplace.  What does that mean?

"The Manager’s Book of Decencies:  How Small Gestures Build Great Companies" by Steve Harrison, chairman of Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based Lee Hecht Harrison, the employee outplacement arm of Adecco Human Capital Solutions, a division of Adecco SA of Glattbrugg, Switzerland, is an attempt to answer that question.

Mr. Harrison’s contends that an ethical culture is the result of many small, and sometimes large, gestures made over a long period of time, with the driving force coming from the top.

"Being decent isn’t about being nice… or spending more money– it’s about treating people fairly," Harrison claims. He also believes that good role models at the top have certain common traits. Those Harrison acknowledges as outstanding role models are Colgate-Palmolive Co. chairman Reuben Mark, Nucor Corp.’s former CEO Kenneth Iverson (who died in 2002), Campbell Soup Co. president and CEO Douglas R. Conant, Southwest Airlines Co. chairman Herbert Kelleher, and Dial Corp.’s former president and CEO, Herbert Baum. 

These five leaders exhibit what Harrison calls a high level of "moral intelligence," which is marked by humility and honesty during both good times and bad.

If employers can pay attention to the issues that matter to their employees, "like finding some kind of fulfillment in the job they come in to day after day…then they’re on their way to creating a culture of decency which is critical to attracting, retaining and engaging employees."