Absolutely. Staff ethics and behavior are set from the top down.
I've been fortunate to have come to most of my current staffing approaches through what seems to be a somewhat unusual approach to staffing, in that there were a group of five -- or more -- of us who equally held the ultimate authority on games. We set clear guidelines for each other -- and we held each other accountable to them.
We had codes of conduct that were viewable by all staff, and we worked hard to keep each other honest. We didn't take our bitching to players, and we made a conscious effort not to bitch about players to each other if we felt we were getting too negative. Everyone vents, but it can quickly turn into a toxic stewfest. If a staffer is bitching TO players ABOUT other players, I'm gonna look for an exit. #1 warning sign.
We tried to watch negativity. We tried to assume good intention. We tried to act transparently when actions had to be taken against players, and we worked to preserve staff confidentiality at every level. I think we mostly succeeded on all of that.
I think many people have unspoken and unexamined ethical principles. It can help tremendously to set them out and think about it and make sure you are on the same page. Always challenge assumptions. Everyone wants to think they act ethically, but what does that really mean? Not discussing the issues can swiftly lead to people thinking all of their actions are totally justified, it's fine, it's not a big deal, it was okay to do this on this other game, and a document that sets out your principles -- and builds in the gut-check and calling each other on things -- can help.
Meg, Roz, Sao and I produced a set of staffing guidelines for a game that we used to play and -- briefly -- staffed under someone else as a headwiz. I still use the guide today. Other games have adopted it as part of their policy as well. I've revised the guidelines, and will continue to do so, because I don't ever expect anything to be a perfect document. The staff policies are available for all players to view and I expect all new staff members to follow those guidelines.
Currently, I do act as headwiz over a cadre of other staffers and some of them probably find me humorless and nitpicky at times in the way I insist they follow those guidelines. I've had other staffers ask me to do something for their characters through staff channels -- just adjusting attributes on their bit, for example -- and I've told them I need them to use players channels, from their player bit: +request, help channel, paging me as a player, etc.. Completely pedantic, of course, but it also sets a tone and an expectation that staffers are not privileged due to their role. Stuff like that!
You have to keep people around you who will call you on your shit. Everyone is going to make mistakes. I know I make them all the time. You have to be willing to own up to your shit, and do so publicly if need be, and apologize sincerely. I think every complaint you hear is worth examining, and gut-checking with others. Sometimes it's totally off-base, but there's often something worth examining or reworking in many.
I've been fortunate enough that I haven't had players coming to me as a member of staff with complaints about another staffer -- but I've been on the other side, as a player making those complaints. I've seen headwiz justify bad behavior in others by pointing out how much work the accused does, or dismiss it in themselves by saying it's not a big deal, there's no real issue, stop exaggerating.
I disagree. As I said, trust is the most scarce resource. You can't buy it back once you've burned it.