Business / Work Place Ethics

Work Place Ethics

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Autor:  anton  04 April 2011
Tags:  Ethics
Words: 4183   |   Pages: 17
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To have ethical behavior and integrity in the workplace it is essential to create an effective value-based code of ethics that is followed by all. A strong deterrent to unethical behavior is ethical leadership. The perception of an employee is greatly based upon what they hear and more important what they see from their superiors. What then are the downfalls of unethical behavior in the workplace? In today’s workplace, all over the world, you can find behaviors of misconduct from both employer and employee alike. Many companies are creating a set code of ethics to maintain discipline amongst staff. From the highest CEO down to the student intern, ethics are an important part of any work environment.


Before we look at ethical behavior, we must first define what ethics is. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines "ethics" as "the moral principles governing or influencing conduct." The negative effect of unethical behavior in executives and managers in the workplace has spawned many employers to review what ethics in the workplace actually means. Most of us have worked for one or more companies. I’m sure we have all experienced staff that exercise unethical behaviors. Some infractions may appear small while others are larger. The bottom line is that no matter what the misconduct is, it interrupts the smooth flow of any organization. Unethical behaviors could be stealing products or money from the company or worse sexual harassment. Ethics in the workplace is what helps to keep the playing field fair and harmonious.

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Case study 1

Let’s look at an example where unethical behavior negatively affected a work environment. This is an example that took place in a correctional facility and it eventually affected two officers directly and the entire staff for many years to come. For the purpose of this example only first names have been used.

The Minnesota department of Corrections mandates that well-being checks shall be performed at least every half hour in a correctional facility. In this facility this means that an officer will walk around the perimeter of the jail on the catwalk where they can directly observe what is happening in a cell, do a head count and speak with inmates regarding any issues they may have.

The problem in this incident in question started during the well-being checks (cell checks as they are called). An officer named Dawn was working the night shift. She was doing a cell check when an inmate named Ben stopped her to "just chat". It started out innocently enough. Soon Dawn began to have a fondness for Ben, and she would readily volunteer to go on cell checks during the shift rather than allow other officers to take their turns doing them.

This went on for some time, until Ben was eventually released. What occurred thereafter was what constituted a misjudgment in ethical behavior. An officer named Jim was working the night shift one night (Dawn was off). The facility is small, and since it is part of the Sheriff’s Office, the radios carried by the detention officers is on the same channel the deputies and

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dispatch use. Jim heard a call go out for a burglary in progress at what turned out to be his address. Jim quickly left work and sped home, meeting the deputies and local police at his house.

One of the perpetrators was immediately caught. The individual was a friend of the aforementioned Ben who had been housed in the jail. As the investigation continued it was discovered that Dawn had given Ben and his friend a tip as to when Jim would be at work.

It was also discovered that Dawn had sexual relations with Ben while he was still at the jail. Dawn broke many rules and regulations, not to mention to part in very unethical

behavior, and in doing so compromised the security of her fellow officers. The two men involved spent more time in jail and Dawn ended up losing her job. She was also sent to serve time in jail, but this time on the opposite side of the bars.

This incident affected the trust the officers at this facility had in each other for quite some time. This incident hurt morale, and caused officers to be more closed off to each other for some time. The attitude being "if you can’t trust your fellow officer, who can you trust?" This ended up being very detrimental to the day-to-day teamwork, which normally ran like a well-oiled machine at this facility.

This incident had a negative affect on ethical behavior, because years after the incident, new employees to the jail were getting scrutinized more heavily than before. Background investigations were now a grueling process, and new employees had to prove themselves to the veteran officers before they were considered "one of the team". This is a prime example of what the fallout of unscrupulous and unethical behavior can result in, in the workplace.

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Due to examples such as the last of unethical behavior in the workplace, companies are establishing value codes of conduct that enforce honesty and fairness amongst staff. Company heads realize the importance of staff on all levels being treated fairly. They know that the workplace can be a stressful environment and an easy target for lawsuits from those that have been subjected to unethical misconduct, especially when supervisors are the ones that condone and display examples of poor ethical behaviors. In today’s work force the "Do as I say, not as I do" mentality is no longer an acceptable management technique. Some larger companies have even implemented an Ethics Hotline, allowing employees and even customers to call in and report unethical behaviors. Research showed that 60% of the tips to the hotline came from employees. One of the advantages of these hotlines was, it prevented management from being directly involved with the hotline itself so as to allow trust with the employees who come forward with the information of unethical behavior.

In all aspects of the work environment it is important to have established codes of conduct, such as how employees are to act on the job, rules of engagement, and proper procedures for issues of conflict. This is to insure that on the job, people maintain a certain level of ethical behavior to make the workplace as respectable as possible. For example: If Mrs. Jones comes in late and gets reprimanded for it, then when Mr. Allen comes in late also, he too will be reprimanded, despite the fact that he might be the supervisors good friend.

Another aspect of workplace ethics is for managers and supervisors to lead by example. If

Supervisors are showing good examples of ethical behaviors in the workplace, and then other employees will know that this is what is expected of them as well. Effective managers and

Workplace Ethics 6 supervisors not only preach the policies, but they also conform themselves to the same standards, if not higher standards, in their own behavior. Modeling ethical work style will encourage your employees to do the same. If supervisors are exercising a value code of conduct they are setting a standard for that workplace. It has already been stated that an employee’s perception is greatly based on what they hear and see from their superiors. Actions speak much louder than words in the work environment. Managers, who do the opposite of what they expect of their employees, teach only that this behavior is permitted or "ethical". Everyone in the workplace needs to be held to the same code of ethics. No one can be exempt from the rules. There cannot be favoritism amongst employees or even people involved in outside of work organizations. If enforcement of unethical behavior is selective it causes employees to loose respect, and the credibility of the person enforcing the rules is questioned. Leading by positive example will increase morale among employees and creates positive interactions among the employees, making them more productive members in the workplace.

The manner in which unethical behavior is handled in the workplace or in an organization can greatly affect how the employees or members then adjust their own behavior to conform to the set code of conduct.

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Case study 2

Let’s look at an example involving an out of work organizations way of handling unethical behavior in a more positive way. This example involves two members involved in an outside of work organization. Again, for the example only first names will be used. This is an example of an ethical dilemma handled well. Alice worked as a volunteer for a Pop Warner organization since 1993. In 1997 she was elected as their treasurer. That same year she met a woman named April who was also a part of this same organization. Alice’s first contact with April was a statement reflecting a returned check charge for NSF (non-sufficient funds). Alice had learned early on to make copies of the checks before depositing them and when she received the bank statement, it showed the NSF fee, but no returned check. Alice checked her records and found that April was the only one with a $50.00 denomination deposited. Alice confronted April and told her she believed that the check was returned. April told her to prove it. Alice went to the bank and did just that. Alice received a copy of it, but did not mail it to the P.O. Box, because April had a second key. As time went on, Alice’s experience with April included losing items of clothing sold to raise money for Pop Warner. These items were sold to customers and required money first and product later. These products were found never to have been delivered. A visit to April’s home revealed a huge area where she had been selling items out of her home. Pop Warner had not seen any of the products. In the year 2001, the team had made it all the way to the Nationals competition. Alice was given a sheet which showed ll the expenses for the trips. It indicated that April paid with a credit card for her room and that her friends also used a credit card. After doing a little research Alice discovered that April did

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not pay with a credit card, that she rather allowed the league to pay for her room. April also took cash for other rooms and pocketed the money and then wrote down that their rooms were paid for by April’s personal credit card. April also charged the other parents for their rooms in order to cover the theft. Time went on as Alice was trying to piece together the alleged embezzlement. Alice knew something was not right. She knew that the figures did not add up. About 8 months after the teams returned from the Nationals competitions, Alice had found over $5,000.00 in embezzled funds. Alice had also found that April was doing fundraisers out of her home. In addition, April would send out sponsor letters requesting money to sponsor the team and had the checks mailed

to her address. The League found out that April’s whole family was sponsored by the community to go to Florida. Not one other child received any money from her "fund-raising”. April was also selling Pop Warner merchandise from her home and requesting checks to be made out to her, claiming she had already paid for the items. Alice found herself contacting the fraud investigators from the Sheriff’s Department to aide in the investigation. In the end April had embezzled $40,000 from the organization. Alice sent out demand letters requesting the return of the funds to the organization. April paid the firs $6,000.00 and then didn’t pay again. The organization hired a attorney who took on the case and now 3 years later, April is paying the organization $500.00 a month. April was also removed from her position on the board of the organization. In this last example we see that even though there was extreme unethical behavior shown by the part of April. Alice acted in a responsible, ethical manner to reach a amiable outcome and as not to accuse someone without the proper proof. This is also a subject that needs mentioning. There are ethical steps or codes of conduct that an employee or member of an organization needs to follow

Workplace Ethics 9 when the ethical behavior of another person is in question. Now that we understand how ethical behavior in the workplace creates a less stressed, more respectable and honest, workplace environment, the flip side of this is, what might the downfalls of unethical behavior result in, in the workplace? It has to be the complete opposite. With unethical behavior, you would find no respect, no honesty, and no fairness. No rules of conduct would be followed. This means that whatever the purpose of the establishment, productivity would be very low. This means Mrs. Jones and Mr. Allen can both come into work late and no one would care. Or maybe Mrs. Jones will get reprimanded, but Mr. Allen would not, because he is good friends with the supervisor. Also, one person can do most of the work while another employee just does little or nothing. One group of people can be shown favoritism over another group. It is endless. Unethical behavior can breed a hostile work environment that would offer staff no protection against unfair treatment and disrespect. Ethics in the workplace is essential to a good work environment, value codes of conduct is a must to establish expectations of staff, and superiors leading by example is vital to the implementation of these standards of ethical behavior. With that, we will conclude that ethics are an important aspect of any work environment.

Workplace Ethics 10 References

Schachter, Debbie. (March 2005) Focus on ethics and the bottom line. (Business management).Information Outlook, 9p.10

Allard, Jonathan,(August 2006), Ethics at Work, Ca Magazine

Leading by example in the workplace.(Valley Education).(Jan.3,2005).San Fernando Valley Business Journal,10p.20.

Verschoor, Curtis C. (Dec 2005) Ethical culture, retrieved September 16, 2006, from Info Trac,

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