Ethical Principles in the Workplace

by Priti Ramjee

When employees have no ethical principles to follow in the workplace they make decisions based on their own values. However, varying values can create discord on the workplace, so, management needs ethical principles to set standards for employees. Regardless of individual values, ethical principles in the workplace set common workplace values. Having this mutual understanding helps to create greater efficiency and productivity.


Employers provide ethical principles for the workplace so that all employees follow the same standards, regardless of personal values and different cultural backgrounds. The principles allow them to voice their opinions freely and without fear, creating a sense of belonging for each employee in the workplace. To implement effective ethical principles in the workplace, employers must set out the objectives of the company orally and in writing.


Ethical principles in the workplace can come into question when an employee needs to make a decision. A decision might involve fairness, truth or values in the workplace. It may concern a legal matter, professional or personal conflict. Even if an employee believes that he can get away with a decision and "no one will know," the decision could involve ethical principles. Employees confused about ethical principles in the workplace should be able to turn to their supervisors for guidance.


An employee sees another employee stealing from the stock room and chooses not to report it. A supervisor suspects that financial statements have changed after a new employee started and doesn't address it. Both are likely violations of the company's ethical principles, so it's management's responsibility to act based on ethical principles, or the workplace can suffer consequences. If a manager chooses to ignore the matter, he indirectly tells employees that they don't have to take workplace ethical principles seriously. Some employers will fire an employee for unethical behavior to set standards for ethical principles in the workplace.


Managers can meet with employees individually and grade them on their ethical behavior as a method of assessing how the workplace responds to the company's ethical principles. Or, management can ask employees to complete ethical checklists each month to gauge how they are performing when it comes to ethical principles. At the same time, this level of focus shows employees that the company is committed to ethical principles in the workplace.

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