Maintaining ethical standards at work can be challenging, particularly if you are surrounded by people who are not doing the same. While some activities, such as keeping honest financial records, are clearly not unethical, and other activities, such as embezzling funds, are clearly illegal, in between these two extremes lies a large gray area of actions that might not be illegal but are still ethically questionable.
Ethical workplace behavior includes maintaining clear and complete financial records that are available to all interested parties, including law enforcement agencies. By keeping an accurate record of financial transactions and history, a company reduces the chances that any of its employees will be tempted or able to disappear with funds. Some companies extend this to an "open book" policy, in which not only management and government agencies but all employees are free to access the company's financial records. This type of full disclosure builds trust and solidarity in a company through ethical behavior.
Cooperation among coworkers not only represents ethical behavior in the workplace, it also makes everyone's jobs easier and more enjoyable. Any good manager knows that cooperation is central to a successful business venture. Hoarding information, undermining the work of other employees and otherwise behaving in a self-centered manner are not only unethical behaviors, they ultimately work against the interests of the person acting in this way as well as others in the company. Mutual aid, on the other hand, promotes the interests of the company and all of its members equally.
Theft is clearly unethical workplace behavior, but it is common nonetheless. Theft ranges from relatively insignificant pilfering of office supplies to major and ongoing embezzling of company funds. Theft can also take less tangible forms, such as doing personal work on company time, using company vehicles or other services and stealing intellectual property. Theft is sometimes undertaken by employees against a company and can also be committed by a company against its employees, for example when employees are deprived of their legal rights and benefits.
For reasons ranging from personal animosity to misguided career ambition, some people engage in intimidation in the workplace. This unethical behavior includes threats against coworkers, unjust disciplinary action against employees by supervisors and the undermining or sabotage of the work of others. Intimidation is unethical, and in serious cases illegal, because of the trauma and stress that it puts the victim through and the damage that it does to workplace morale.
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