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As professionals, we have an individual opportunity and a standard of responsibility to be committed to the standards of quality of ethical and moral standards in the workplace. Employees having a high ethical standard are paramount to the success of any organization and acting in an unethical manner will almost ultimately destroy it. This essay will provide some basic ethical guidelines that apply to organizations, why unethical behavior is happening in the workplace, and finally, it will identify ways in which management and organizations can encourage ethical behavior.
The definition of ethical behavior is a way of interaction within a company, community, and culture of an organization that tends to be good for the business and involves demonstrating respect for vital moral principles that generally includes integrity, fairness, dignity, and basic rights. Unethical behavior is any action that is set out to taking advantage of another without their knowledge or consent. Even though unethical behavior is bad, not all unethical situations are illegal.
Today’s society has been completely out of touch with the most the most basic principles of integrity and moral fairness. There is so much corruption in business today that the true meaning of ethical behavior has almost been forgotten. Because of these reasons, many organizations have put specific guidelines in place to ensure that unethical behavior can be quickly identified and dealt with. One of the easiest ways that an employee can keep from being unethical is just doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time.
In the Marine Corps, we call that Honor, Courage and Commitment and being faithful to you and the institution that you are a part of. Some other guidelines are honesty. Employees should be truthful and of the highest integrity. If you want others to be honest to you then you should do the same. Fairness is another example of not being unethical. Everyone should treat others as they wish to be treated. When an employee doesn’t practice fairness, it causes unjustified hate and prejudice. Managers who don’t treat every employee as equal is unethical even though it’s not illegal. At no time should anyone show bias among employees. This could create a culture that causes employee abandonment. People will be talking behind each other’s back and the manager may not get the respect that he/she deserves. Employees should know and understand what’s expected of them and what their obligations are when it comes to not engaging in unethical behavior.
Organizations operate more effectively and efficiently when everyone practices ethical behavior and all employees are held accountable when they do not. Companies like the United Postal Service, General Mills, and AFLAC are great examples of organizations that have strong ethical guidelines in place and their profit shares show it. Having ethical guidelines are the foundation of a professional organizations success. Next, this essay will identify some common reasons for unethical behavior in the workplace. One of the most important questions one can ask is what makes employees make unethical decisions or why they start to act in unethical ways. There are numerous reasons that someone can cross the line. Often, the pressure of succeeding can push someone to do things that they would never ordinarily do. Having deadlines to meet and high expectations or maybe even constant pressure from managers, co-workers, and clients could cause someone to engage in an unethical behavior.
Others make unethical choices simply because they aren’t really sure what the right thing is to do. For example, they aren’t given any guidance of the Code of Ethics that are in place. Some just don’t have any ethical values because they have never been taught. It’s in their nature and they will never learn or overcome this disease. These employees never consider whether something is right or wrong. Some employees only feel or want to know what’s in it for them and if they can get away with it. Greed can be a cause of unethical behavior, having a financial gain, and the type of environment that you are working in. Sometimes, unethical behavior has been the culture of the organization and you have did it so much that it doesn’t even bother you. People just look the other way as though it has never happened. Another is career advancement; employees will do whatever it takes to progress in their career. The last cause is just being ignorant. Organizations need to ensure that they keep employees informed of their policies and train employees of what is expected of them ethically.
The last point I will discuss is how management and organizations encourage ethical behavior. The first thing that they should do is establish a code of ethics. This will let every employee know what is expected of them and what their responsibility is to the company ethically. Being ethical starts with the top leadership and they are the ones that should make sure that a preamble is posted around the office and that it promotes integrity and truthfulness. Leaders should always demonstrate their commitment to modeling ethical behavior. Businesses that have a code of ethics and follow them normally will have a competitive advantage and generate higher profits which make them successful. Management can build an ethics program that shows and educate employees on workplace ethics, values, and morality that guides its decision making process. Senior leaders can appoint a chief compliance or an ethics officer to drive the program’s success.
This could serve as a means of communication, training and resource center for employees. Leaders can also analyze the company’s corporate culture and make sure that’s going in a positive direction. The culture should define the organizations standards and identify who an employee can contact when faced with an ethical dilemma. The code of ethics should be stated in the employee handbook and that it is clearly understandable. Another way that managers can encourage ethical behavior is by making sure they hire and recruit ethical people. This can be done by having background checks and a strong vetting selection.
Putting compliances and code of ethics would drastically reduce the number of unethical situations. In conclusion, unethical situations can destroy an organizations culture. Employees should recognize the importance of not acting unethical. Senior leaders should incorporate ethical guidelines and ensure that everyone is in compliance. Having a code of ethics and following them will enable the organizations success. Ethical behavior is making good decisions based on those codes of ethics. This is the recipe for a successful business.
Giacalone, Mark, D., Handbook of Unethical Work Behavior, (2012), Sharpe, M.E. Inc.
Wheelen, T.L., & Hunger, J.D. (2010). Strategic Management and Business Policy: Toward Global Sustainability (13th ed). Prentice Hall
Calling in sick when you really are not is unethical because on such short notice a replacement will be difficult, if at all, to find. Someone needs to do the job that you are hired to do with or without you. Everybody at one point or another gets ill and that is understandable but every day that job is not done or done incorrectly costs the company money. If the company feels that you are costing them more than if they trained someone else with a better attendance record for your position they will let you go. Taking office supplies home for personal use is unethical and illegal because they are property of the company.
Theft is something we are taught at a young age to be wrong so in essence this also goes against morals. The company loses money and they need to cover this loss by either cutting hours, laying off employees, postponing raises or giving them to some employees. You could be one of those employees without a raise indirectly affected or arrested for stealing if caught. Cheating on a work appraisal is risky if not unethical. This directly relates to money and affects many different parties directly as well as indirectly in a negative way.
Profits are the difference between success and the demise of a business but cheating is a quick route to demise. A business will not support an employee whose actions put their company at such risk. Turning in a coworker for stealing is ethical in the sense of the word but may go against the morals you know growing up. Stealing is wrong but a “snitch” is not what any of us wants to be. It is a double-edged sword, the company will be grateful in knowing who is stealing from them and will eradicate that problem but then you will be a known “snitch” who can’t be trusted.
Overcharging on your company expense report is seemingly harmless, but in the end who really pays? For the meantime, while you are a productive member of the staff it is acceptable but eventually may not equate to your overall production. The issue at hand is if this were ethical behavior, the answer would have to be no. You have to keep in mind this is not your money and if it were, would you be so generous. Surfing the net on company time unethical is extreme especially if it is pertaining to company business.
The questionable part is whether this falls into the category of ethical or unethical. If you are surfing, the net for personable reasons that is not something the company should pay for. It is intolerable behavior and when it takes time away from your duties that is unethical and that is means for termination. If you are surfing the net after your work is completed and you still have time on the clock before your work day is done that is just taking advantage of the situation and would be worthy of a warning not to do again or else.
Lying (exaggerating) about yourself (education or experience) on a resume or during a job interview is immoral which in definition is unethical but then again it has to do with your upbringing. If you do something you know is wrong then you just should not do it. If in reality it does not hurt anyone then it can be justifiable but not excused. If you know you can do the job that the description calls for but you do not possess the experience that is required, I think is something one has to decide if it is ethical. Despite the simplicity of the definition, application is more complex. (McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2009)
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