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 How would you describe the factors that determine the tone at the top?

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The tone at the top – factors that influence it

The tone at the top is one of the most important aspects that can impact the performance of the organization. It can influence the employees too strive even harder or de-motivate them to degrade performance quality. It is thus essential to identify the factors that determine the tone of the top within an organization.

Factors to determine the tone of the top

There are three main factors that influence the tone of the top management in any organization.

1.      Consistency

Consistency is one of the most primary factors that the top management must be concerned about. If the tone of the top is not consistent, it is more likely that the employees would turn inconsistent as well, and this can heavily impact the performance of the organization. It is, even more, the case when the leader holds a charm within the organization and is a favorite of many employees. An inconsistent tone of such an organizational leader can enforce varying standards for the employees (Schwartz, Dunfee & Kline, 2005). The inconsistent tone of the top can even hamper the credibility as doing one thing after saying another is a wrong message for the workers. In this context, it is necessary to mention that it is the predictability and the repetitive nature of the leaders’ behavior that triggers motivation and confidence among the employees.

2.      Integrity

The top management must maintain a tone of integrity and should work to set a standard that the employees can strive up to. The meaning of integrity carries a far deeper meaning than simple compliance with the regulations. Rather, it takes into consideration the treatments given to the suppliers and clients, the honesty of the staff members, transparency of communication, and the processes employed for solving the business issues. The failure to maintain ethical standards is one of the worst ways that can hamper the confidence of the organizational leader (Patelli & Pedrini, 2015). It is a common issue in most of the publicly traded organizations due to the constant pressure of performance that is imposed on them each quarter. They often tend to go for a shortcut to fulfill the short-term objectives putting the longer-term integrity at stake.

3.      Work Ethics

The tone of the top is directly impacted by the work ethics maintained within the organization. For example, if the top management maintains a tone of coming late to work and leaving early, a wrong message is being delivered to everyone else working in the team (Hunton, Hoitash & Thibodeau, 2011). No one can expect the employees to be thought leaders if the top management is not a thought leader as well. The tone of the top directly transmits a wave into the employees and can be better defined to be reciprocal in nature. The individuals at the top are paid for their hard work. They are the individuals with maximum engagement, and they are rightfully rewarded for that.

Apart from the above-mentioned factors, the ability to take risks by the top also influences the tone. The approach of collaboration is yet another factor that can be used to determine the tone of the tone in an organization.


Hunton, J. E., Hoitash, R., & Thibodeau, J. C. (2011). Retracted: the relationship between perceived tone at the top and earnings quality. Contemporary Accounting Research28(4), 1190-1224.

Patelli, L., & Pedrini, M. (2015). Is tone at the top associated with financial reporting aggressiveness?. Journal of Business Ethics126(1), 3-19.

Schwartz, M. S., Dunfee, T. W., & Kline, M. J. (2005). Tone at the top: An ethics code for directors?. Journal of Business Ethics58(1-3), 79.



 Tone at the top is used to in the organizations to describe the organization’s ethics and compliance program which is established by the directors of the organization, committee members and senior management of the organization. It is believed to have this tone at the top with good ethics such that there will not be any frauds or can prevent fraud and prevent unethical practices of the organization. These are the rules made by the leaders for their employees and employers to follow certain ethics and behavior at the organization (COATES, 2018). There are few tone at the top points which keep organizational ethics and behaviors at the top and organizational ease and are easy to follow:

Behavioral Consistency is important at the organization, as the leader takes or picks up favorites employees in the organization and those employees maintain or follow inconsistency in the organization, hence, leader should consider equal and also, leader should repeatedly act in a manner that his employees should follow him and should be inspired by him and should be able to predict that they can believe or depend on him.

Organization should follow integrity, which includes or identify the organization is treating its client and the supplier, this transparency should be maintained and the communication with its staff should be honest. Leader can build his institution or an organization based upon integrity and its ethical standards.

Work Ethics are also considered to one of the tone at the top in the organization. It says a leader has to be an example or leader should be set as an example for the work ethics. If he wants his employees to be smart and hard working, then he should be smart and hard working person in the organization following organizations work ethics.

Should be free to take risks, leaders should not only encourage innovative ideas but also creativity or creative environment, employees should be given a chance to express there ideas even if it has risk in it (the idea), instead of the fear of getting blamed in the organization. Also, the leader should encourage his employees to get involve in decision – making processes, a leader should collaborate repetitively with his employees about the business, and the management.


Bradley Lail, Jason MacGregor, Martin Stuebs, & Timothy Thomasson. (2015). The Influence of Regulatory Approach on Tone at the Top. Journal of Business Ethics126(1), 25. Retrieved from

Klaus, L. C. O. (2016). Accreditation Fraud in Brazilian Military Hospitals: Why “Tone at the Top” Matters. Journal of Military Ethics15(4), 275–287.

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