It seems like everyone wants to get ahead at work. Some people will do whatever it takes. I’m not talking about the people who come early and stay late, take on extra assignments, and suck up to the boss and anyone else that might be a good contact to cultivate on the way to promotions and raises.
I’m talking about the people who lie, steal, cheat, omit, and avoid in order to accomplish their goals at work. The folks that believe that the ends (profits or promotion) justify the means.
We have laws that spell out when something is illegal, but what about those things that just don’t look right, even though they are not clearly illegal? That’s when our judgment about what is ethical comes into question.
- Omitting information that will slow things down, upset the boss, reflect badly on someone (you?)
- Making a personal long distance call at work because it’s just one, and the company won’t notice, and they can afford it more than you can.
- Signing documents (legal, reports, ledgers) without reading them in order to speed the process along,
- Taking work supplies home ( one pen, 10 pens, a box of pens, a carton of pens)
Some folks might take a small step onto ‘unethical ice’ and because they don’t fall in and nothing cracks, (and they don’t get caught), they take another. And then another. Before you know it, they are climbing the hill of lies to the top and trying not to fall off the edge. And asking others to join them, cover for them, or look the other way.
I don’t know what it is about human nature that makes some people follow the rules and others believe it is alright to break them. Maybe it’s just that the opportunity is there. Perhaps they aren’t happy with their role and lying or cheating to get ahead makes sense. Maybe they feel pressures to show results faster. There are tons of other reasons.
The most important thing is to help your employees and co-workers by recognizing and rewarding the positive behavior they demonstrate in order to move the company forward. Modeling that behavior shows them how and talking about that behavior creates an opportunity to get them thinking about what they might do when they see something that doesn’t look quite ethical.
Ethical behavior is the cornerstone of good business. But when there is economic instability, there are higher incidents of unethical behavior in the workplace. If that feel like NOW, then the time to talk about observable behavior when it comes to acting ethically is NOW.
Is this an issue where you work? Is anyone talking about this? Could you start the conversation?