Levels of Work Ethics in the Workplace

Lying at the workplace indicates a weak ethical environment.
Lying at the workplace indicates a weak ethical environment. (Image: NA/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

American auto maker Henry Ford once said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.” Ford believed that financial success alone cannot guarantee a company’s survival. Ethics, the moral compass which guides human beings, should not be checked at the door like a coat when you enter the workplace. Unfortunately, some employees and even entire firms operate with only profit in mind. This behavior can have negative consequences for both the staff and the business itself.

Strong Ethics

Being moral means considering the needs and feelings of other people. Because of the importance of ethics, many professions have a set of principles which dictate practitioners' behavior. For example, doctors cannot disclose a patient's medical records without his permission. Individual employees and companies that make their decisions and base their actions on ethics display a high level of moral principles.


The opposite of strong ethics, immorality, manifests itself through selfishness and a disregard for other people. The Ethics Office at Texas Instruments cites the following examples of unethical behavior: billing for more hours than an employee actually worked; using office equipment for personal use; and taking sick days when you are perfectly healthy. People commit the aforementioned acts because they care only about themselves, and the needs or wants of others do not enter their minds.

Gray Areas

Ethics, unlike science, do not always offer a clear answer. Complicated situations challenge humans to make the best decision. However, the definition of “best” can be debated. The best decision for the company, such as cutting staff during a weak sales period, will hurt employees with families to support. And the best decision for an employee, such as whether to disclose fraudulent accounting procedures, damages the business’ stock value.

Implications of Workplace Ethics

In 2010, the Ethics Resource Center published a study about workplace attitudes toward ethics. Researchers discovered that employees who reported being in a strongly ethical workplace observed less misconduct than workers at companies where corruption reigns. In addition, the study reported that managers play a significant role in fostering a moral culture at the office. When supervisors and the upper echelons of management encourage employees to behave ethically, subordinates become more likely to report misconduct at work.

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