If you work full time, you spend about a fifth of your year at work. When it comes to the workplace, corporate culture and environment have a huge impact on mental health and well being. To that end, how employees and management conduct themselves is a big part of that culture. Paying heed to the do's and don'ts of work ethics can make life more pleasant for everyone on the job.

What Are Ethics?

There are laws and there are ethics. The latter is a moral code that governs behavior. How you interact with others, the liberties you take and the compromises you make tend to all come down to ethics. If you think about others, you work hard, you own up to mistakes and your word can be trusted, then you are an ethical person. Personal and work ethics tend to be defined by character, integrity and values.

Do's and Don'ts for Employees

  • Do be considerate. From washing your dishes rather than surreptitiously leaving them in the sink to talking at a quiet volume so you don’t disrupt your colleagues’ focus, simple consideration goes a long way.

  • Do remember your role. You are an employee of and an ambassador for your company. You have signed a contract, and you’ve agreed to HR policies. Be discreet and mindful of these, especially when on social media or speaking in public places.

  • Do be disciplined. Don’t follow the slack examples others might set. Just because they’ve lowered the bar doesn’t mean you should. Working hard and doing your best will inevitably play in your favor, but at the very least, you’ll sleep well at night.

  • Don’t steal. This seems obvious, but it has become commonplace to “borrow” a stapler or take a ream of paper home from the office. Over 52 percent of employees admit to having stolen office or work supplies for use at home, causing managers to order 20 percent more than they think they need just because of theft. Don’t let a sense of entitlement cloud your responsibilities and allegiances.

  • Don’t be dishonest. From manipulating others to flat-out lying, workplaces can have a sense of self-preservation that sometimes encourages duplicitous behavior you’d never use elsewhere. Getting caught in a lie can compromise how you’re perceived by co-workers and managers, and it can also dramatically impact your potential for growth.

The Do’s and Don'ts in a Professional Workplace

  • Do your best. Some employees do a better job when they know their output is being watched, but that shouldn’t matter. Good work ethics mean you do your best whether there are eyes on you or not.

  • Don’t be selfish. Workplaces are shared spaces, so respecting others and being cognizant of their needs is a key part in keeping work enjoyable.

  • Do keep your word. If you say you’ll do something, then do it. If you promise to show up to an event or a party, then follow through on that commitment or have the decency to cancel in advance. Some events and parties can be quite expensive per head, and no-shows can be costly.

  • Don’t be a hoarder. Don’t hoard supplies while others have to go without.

  • Do make the effort. If you use the last of the toilet paper in the washroom, replace the roll. If you’ve drank the last of the coffee, make another pot. These are all little things, but as the saying goes, “character is who you are when no one is looking,” so those little efforts can feel like a big kindness.

  • Don't be inappropriate. In social media and in computer use at work, it's easy to forget your responsibilities. Don't be indiscreet and don't surf the internet to excess during work hours, or you may cause management to crack down.