Ethics Training for the Workplace

Business ethics are an important part of any company. A company is ultimately responsible for its employees' actions. Therefore, it must educate its workers, so that they do the right thing for the good of others and the organization as a whole.

Definition of Ethics Training

Ethics training helps employees identify the ethical considerations of their decisions and introduces high ethical standards in their everyday lives.

Why Ethics Training Is Necessary

Ethics training is necessary because employees' actions ultimately reflect on the business, and a company can be legally and financially responsible for workers' decisions. Likewise, unethical behavior often goes unchecked.


Nearly 70 percent of U.S. companies provide employee ethics training. A slim majority (55 percent) of people report unethical behavior when they see it. About half of all workers reported observing unethical behavior in the past year. Most common unethical behaviors include abusive or intimidating behavior toward employees, followed by lying (to other employees, bosses, customers, vendors or the general public) and misrepresenting actual time worked. It's easy to see that a company loses when it doesn't provide ethics training.

Factors Influencing Ethical Behavior

Several factors can influence an employee’s ethical behavior. The first may involve an employee’s manager: his personality and beliefs and whether he cares about personal standards or only the bottom line. A second factor may be the organization and its overall culture of valuing profit above all else and cooking the books to make the grade. A final influence may be the external environment including laws, regulations and generally held values (simply because something is legal does not make it ethical). Therefore, ethics training must understand these forces and how they motivate ethical (or unethical) behavior in employees.

Ethics Training Checklist

Some employers show DVDs that depict ethically questionable scenarios and ask employees to react. While this can be a good base, it's important to give employees tools they can use every day. The following ethics checklist, as compiled by author John R. Schermerhorn, can help employees handle everyday decisions. 1. Recognize the ethical dilemma. 2. Get the facts. 3. Identify options. 4. Test each option to determine if it's legal, right and beneficial. 5. Decide which option to follow. 6. Evaluate your decision by considering how you would feel if your family found out about this decision, or if it was reported in the local newspaper. 7. Take Action.


  • "Management;" John Schermerhorn; 2008

About the Author

Terry Mann has worked as a professional journalist for the last five years. Her work as appeared online and in print, in such publications as "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and "The Wall Street Journal."