Workplace ethics can be described as the acceptable code of conduct or behavior expected of both employees and employers. These codes of behavior stem from the realization that work should be guided by diligence, morals, and virtues, which are inherently beneficial to business sustainability. Whether the ethical issue pertains to being requested to do something against personal or corporate ethics or facing someone portraying unethical behavior, knowing how to address such problems is paramount. With the increased unethical conduct at the workplace, many employees find themselves walking away from compromising behavior without doing anything to stop or limit its extent (Klein & Shtudiner, 2021). It is essential to take personal responsibility in addressing unethical behavior at the workplace because it impacts the present and future of businesses.
Actions Against Unethical Practice
The workplace setup comprises of different individuals with various moral and ethical standards working together. Although the workplace codes of conduct outline the expectations of every person while at work, there are bound to arise ethical issues (Klein & Shtudiner, 2021). If I found unethical practice at my workplace, the first step would be evaluating the behavior in line with the codes of practice set by the company. This is crucial because it determines the subsequent steps in handling the issue. I would make sure I understand fully where the issue lies and ascertain that it goes against the acceptable behavior.
The next step I would take after confirming that the practice is unethical depends on the severity of the issue. Depending on the person doing it, I would either face them or report to higher authorities. For instance, If I found my colleague at the same level as me behaving in a way that compromises company values, I would start by talking to them about it. I would approach them respectfully and first question their conduct, after which I would refer them to the company regulations. This step is vital because it makes the employee feel that I am concerned about their well-being and would rather correct it with him than take it to the authorities. However, if the misconduct is gross, I would follow the set guidelines and preferably report it to my supervisor.
In some cases, the misconduct may be carried out by people higher in the leadership structure. In that case, approaching them personally would not be a good idea. Therefore, I would search out the company procedures to understand how the reporting should be done. Sometimes, the unethical issue may be illegal, calling for serious action. In case of gross or illegal misconduct, I would first ensure that I am operating in line with company rules. I would then seek legal representation before reporting the issue to higher authorities. This is because whistleblowing can have severe repercussions to the person who reports it if they lack legal backup.
Examples of Common Unethical Conduct
There are several examples of common unethical practices in the workplace that have been accepted as routine operations. These practices go on every day, and no one seems to realize that they are unethical or report them for further action. One example is the misuse of organization’s time whereby employees tend to inappropriately use the time allocated for work. This has become one of the most common practices that are considered too small to report. A good illustration of this conduct is where employees use the company phones to call their friends and spouses or conduct personal transactions. Other instances include signing up for an employee who does not report to work or altering the timetable to cover one’s tracks so that their misconduct is not realized.
The second example of unethical practice is the misuse of company resources, especially the Internet. Many companies have installed Internet connections for their operations and almost every employee is given access to the network for the company operations. Often, employees use the Internet to browse and check personal information such as logging into social media sites when they are expected to work. This is common in many workplaces and has become accepted as normal behavior, although it remains unethical. These employees are commonly referred to as cyberslackers whose main purpose is to utilize the company’s network connection for personal gains while misusing the time and resources they should use to advance the company’s agenda.
The third example of common workplace misconduct is employee theft. Employees are usually in charge of the production process in many companies. At some point, they develop the feeling that what they have produced is somehow their property. This feeling grows, and instead of developing a sense of pride and loyalty to their job, they end up stealing. This practice has become common and any employee questioned about it would rationalize their behavior by claiming that everybody does it. This claim demonstrates how deep the issue goes without people recognizing its impact on personal and corporate values.
Unethical workplace conduct is not only widespread among the employees; it has also taken root among employers. The main misconduct portrayed by employers is the abuse of employees, including lying to them (Klein & Shtudiner, 2021). One illustration of this practice is the instance where employers summon employers and assign them duties outside their job description against company policies. For instance, a supervisor may call an employee to clean their office while other personnel are assigned that role. In other cases, employers make promises of salary increment and workplace improvement, which they never keep. Employee misuse is worsened by the fact that those practicing it are high in the leadership structure making it hard to report such instances. As a result, employees have come to accept it as a common practice.
The Unethical Continuum
Unethical workplace behavior has continued despite formulating clear codes of conduct. The main reason why people accept unethical practice is because they deem it too minimal to be of huge impact to others and the company. An issue, such as misuse of a company’s Internet resource, is considered acceptable because it does not affect the company’s operations. The other reason behind the acceptance of unethical practice is the justification that everyone at the workplace engages in similar misconduct.
The severity of unethical conduct can be described by the following continuum model:
As demonstrated in the model above, unethical practice develops from simple practices that are not good for fellow employees and customers. Such behavior includes failing to cooperate with one’s team or not labeling products appropriately for the customer. This is widely accepted among many employees at the workplace. From this step, workplace misconduct develops into misuse of a company’s resources such as time and the internet, which is also widely accepted. At this point, employees openly breach the company’s policy and violate the set guidelines, after which they engage in unethical and illegal behavior. The first three practices are not considered unethical in many workplaces. The severity increases down the model above, which I derived from the examples of common workplace misconduct outlined in this essay.
Klein, G., & Shtudiner, Z. (2021). Judging severity of unethical workplace behavior: Attractiveness and gender as status characteristics. BRQ Business Research Quarterly, 24(1), 19–33. Web.