Emtrain Blog

3 Smart Ways to Safeguard Your Company from an Ethics Scandal

Posted by Allison Baker

May 3, 2016

How to avoid media scrutiny for an ethics violation

A few years ago, Elizabeth Holmes’ company Theranos made headlines for its promise to disrupt biotechnology with innovative blood testing. Now, Theranos is making headlines for allegedly fooling investors, consumers, and the media that they had a viable product.

In addition to media scrutiny, Theranos and Holmes are currently under investigation by the SEC and DOJ. So, what happened here and how can we learn to build a company that doesn’t run into ethical and legal scrutiny after years of hard work?

Keep reading to find out how to build an ethical and compliant company from the start and avoid an ethics scandal.

1. Onboard with Code of Conduct

The best way to make sure employees and leadership are on the same page regarding ethical decision-making is by addressing it on day one.

As you introduce your company and its mission, you should discuss your Code of Conduct and preemptively address issues like conflicts of interest, misuse and misappropriation, and a framework for making more ethical decisions.

Critical thinking and ethical decision-making should be directly connected with discussing your company culture. An onboarding course with your values and Code of Conduct is a great way to do that.

Start My Free  Onboarding & Code of Conduct  Course Demo

2. Use the Business Color Spectrum™

Knowing how to identify which situations will trigger poor decision-making distinguish isn’t always clear cut. To make ethical decision-making a little easier, we created the Business Color Spectrum™ to help you spot risky, stressful situations and know when you should slow down or seek guidance before making a decision you’ll regret down the road.



Many of our customers have adopted the Business Color Spectrum™ into their corporate vernacular and use it to help their employees spot risky situations and understand when they should NOT be making a decision on their own.

3. Discuss common issues periodically

It’s great to onboard your employees with a Code of Conduct course to get them started on the right foot, but it’s not enough to communicate your message once. Don’t make the mistake of having a “set it and forget it” ethics and compliance program.

Instead, you can maintain an open dialog with employees by having periodic discussions about ethics and compliance issues as they arise. Even better, know the common issues faced by specific departments of your organization and design messaging just for them.

An easy way to start mini conversations about common ethics and compliance issues is to send out a short video clip that illustrates a tricky situation.

We have a video library with over 700 workplace scenes and clips you can send out to your organization to help them understand how to navigate and avoid ethical mistakes. Here are some of our favorite compliance videos!


Theranos probably won’t be the last company to run into trouble after growing rapidly and gaining momentum from press and investors.

However, if you are careful to communicate with your team, identify risk areas, and stop common compliance and ethics issues before they start, you have a better chance of building an ethical culture from the start and avoiding government scrutiny.

4 Easy Steps to Fostering an Ethical Organization Click to Download My Free Guide 


Topics: Compliance, Business Compliance, Code of Conduct, Ethics, Corporate Governance, onboarding, Silicon Valley