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Ethics in the Workplace

Ethics in the Workplace

I recently experienced a disturbing, unethical and immoral situation. My company arranged a new job for a candidate. With a formal job offer in hand, she resigned from her other position and took on a new housing lease. She was just about to start her new job when the company that made her the offer rescinded and explained that after a 10-year absence, a former employee had knocked on their door asking to come back.  

The new employee is now out of a job, facing financial hardship and desperate because her otherwise future employer would not honor its written offer. Since the firm was a new client of ours, this shocking action made me wonder about the vetting process. One can never really know why people exhibit certain unethical behaviors.

Ethics constitute thoughts, behaviors and conduct. The key components to workplace ethics involve honesty and demonstrating integrity while simultaneously doing the right thing. For example, (at-home) caregivers are placed in a position of trust and must have upstanding ethics. Otherwise they might steal from or take advantage of patients with limited mental or physical capacity.

Another classic example are bank employees. Banks typically will not hire if one’s credit rating falls below a certain threshold, and will routinely check the status of employees’ finances. If bank employees are unable to prioritize their financial responsibilities, why should they be entrusted with depositors’ funds?

People who lack ethics run the risk of termination. Inappropriate office behaviors such as sexual harassment, inappropriate workplace relationships and stealing office products are classic examples of why you could lose your job.

Some fundamental signs of unethical workplace behavior include:

  • Cyberslacking: Don’t spend work hours on your personal business, shopping, reading the news or checking social media accounts.

  • Misleading: Your company is being considered for a merger and your position is at risk of elimination, yet your boss tells you that won’t happen.

  • Stealing credit: Don’t claim credit on a work project or product that your coworker imagined or created.

So how do you hire the right people and create a more ethical workplace? First, hire people for character. Look for traits by creating ethical situations and listening to their responses. Reward good behavior. Continue treating people with dignity and respect, and always hire employees who treat others as they would like to be treated.

Share your sense of values with your coworkers. If you are a goal-oriented person, motivate the people around you by being excited about your product or service. Having a sense of purpose is fulfilling, and this shared vision for being on the same team with the same goals can be immensely rewarding. But most important, no matter how successful your business may become — never compromise your ethics.


StarStaff President and Headhunter Avery Plavin has been helping businesses expand their human capital for 20 years. She gathers insights into the organizations she serves — and has partnered with Fortune 100 companies, private entities, and smaller businesses to grow their market share. Avery helps clients prosper by providing competitive analysis, tools, expert resume writing, and resources to allow them to remain competitive in our ever-changing market.


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