The Importance of Workplace Ethics

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Workplace ethics are on the rise among U.S. companies. According to the 2009 Ethics Resource Center’s National Business Ethics Survey, 71 percent of employees from the U.S. government, for-profit and nonprofit sectors considered their senior leaders open and informative with their employees, and 80 percent said their organizations held workers accountable for wrongdoing. Ethical policies in the workplace not only protect company assets, but they also promote a healthy and emotionally secure work environment, according to Global Ethics University.

Protects Fundamental Rights

When companies and workers think of workplace ethics, they typically think about protection against immoral behavior and illegal activity on the job. But workplace ethics also provide protection of basic human rights in the office worldwide. According to Go Pinoy, employers in the Philippines forced children as young as 17 to work until they were exhausted, and those who were disabled once had no choice but to live in poverty. Even employees in the United States have faced such issues as discrimination based on race, gender and disability, which gave birth to federal documents such as the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, that protect employees from such forms of discrimination.

Protects Company Assets

Workplace ethical standards protect the company from employees stealing property and falsifying documents, such as expense reports, according to the Online Ethics Center. Ethics also protect an organization from employees taking sick leave for vacation days, taking extended breaks or using office equipment for personal projects. The key to protecting company assets is to value employee contributions and treat workers fairly, decently and with dignity and respect. Employees who are proud of what they do for the company and feel their jobs are important to accomplishing the organization’s mission are less likely to steal from their employers.

Provides Emotional Security

Workplace ethics provide emotional security because employees can go to work knowing other workers won’t harass them, their supervisors will respect both them and their work and their co-workers will reap disciplinary measures if they steal supplies or equipment or falsify company records, according to the Global Ethics University. Ultimately, either disciplined employees will learn from their mistakes and upgrade their ethical standards or the company will dismiss them. Such disciplinary practices foster a working environment of upstanding workers.

Promotes Teamwork

Organizations typically find a “gap” between the values they want their employees to emulate and the behaviors they actually reflect, says the Free Management Library. Consequently, workplace ethics programs align behaviors of workers with the values of their employers. This “meeting of the minds” fosters an atmosphere of openness, trust and partnership, all of which are critical for team building. And when employees understand their supervisors’ expectations, they feel strongly motivated to excel at their jobs.

Fosters a Positive Public Image

Work ethics radiate in the public eye. This is particularly true for high-profile companies or for not-for-profit organizations that rely on government grants or private donations, because such donors need to know how you plan to use their money. High ethical standards in your workplace let such “outsiders” know that you will use their money as you’ve stipulated and that they will see the end results of their contributions. If you’ve received donations for youth programs, for example, provide your donors with a list of such programs that their monies have paid for, including specific names and content of workshops.


About the Author

Donna Ferrier has been a writer and editor since 1990. She has written articles for "Training and Development Journal," "Officer Review" magazine and "Signature Service and Business Printing Technologies Report." Ferrier has written website copy, press releases, resumes, flyers and fund-raising letters. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia.

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