Ethics @ Work Place: Not The Holy Cow!!

Article by Dr. Pratik P. SURANA

Chief Mentor and Founder,

Quantum Group,


Skype: pratiksqicpl 

Open the newspaper and you’ll find ethical crises like embezzlement, fraud, or misuse of company products or services making the headlines. High profile ethical breaches like these all have to do with something near and dear to a company’s heart; its assets.

This is known in the workplace as the stuff which the company has paid for and that you use every day. When it comes to company assets (in any form) things get serious. Mess with the money or the stuff, and you’ll end up in hot water really fast. On the surface, this seems cut and dried, but is it as easy as it sounds?

For those of us without power and influence, ethically taking care of company assets may be a non-issue. You show up for work, do your job, and go home without engaging in any high finance or legal manoeuvres Little did you know, during your seemingly routine day, you had hundreds or even thousands of dollars of assets under your control. With all the stuff that passes you by each day at work, you probably never think about it in terms of assets and your responsibility.

A few decades ago the traditional definition of having good work ethics meant being an honest, ethical, and trustworthy worker. Being a person of high integrity and having strong principles earned you the respect of your subordinates and the approval of your boss.

Work ethics in today’s corporate culture involves having strong moral values but also means showing up with a positive attitude, taking initiative, having positive relationships with your team, and not taking credit for their work. Demonstrating genuine work ethics at the office will help people perceive you in a positive light and propel you ahead in your career.

It’s imperative to understand that even with influence and visibility, without having strong work ethics you won’t be perceived as someone who’s ready for a promotion or ready to get ahead. In fact, weak work ethics can actually damage your reputation, or worse, make you lose your job.
Managing and improving your reputation as a leader is not always easy. But you don’t need to go at it alone. Personal executive coaching delivered by a reputable executive coach can help you get ahead at work and realize your career goals and dreams.

Ethics are defined as principles which outline moral values and rules. It is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions of morality through a set of behavioural guidelines. A workplace is a cluster of individuals, and hence an amalgamation of attitudes and imaginations, which often dilutes the existence of ethics. Understanding ethics in the workplace is of utmost importance, as congregation of people from myriad strata and cultures, makes the environment volatile and subject to unnecessary differences. This can hamper productivity and lead to irreparable damages. So, let’s take a look at some of the factors which go a long way on creating an ethical workplace.

Role of Personal Ethics
Personal ethics is a branch of ethics which determines the code of conduct one adheres to at a personal level. It is a course of action an individual decides to follow in order to work in harmony with others. Following personal code of ethics brings accountability and responsibility towards oneself. In the larger scheme of things, it provides a purpose and direction, bringing out a meaning to professional and personal pursuits. Personal ethics play an important role while imbibing a sense of morality amongst your employees. Each one of us has a right to do what we want. However, these rights are governed by a set of rules formed due to conditioning of the mind. These rules are known as ethics. Hence, every act should be done with the right ‘right’ or else it only leads to a colossal chaos. A person who has a clarity of personal ethics, can relate to the seriousness of abiding by the ethics at the workplace. Let’s take a look at some of the important rules of working together.

Role of Honesty
The statement, ‘honesty is the best policy’ is as old as the hills and as deep as the ocean. Yet, ‘truth is inconvenient’ is the commonly practised statement. It is a myopic mind which perceives lies above honest facts. However, the act of lying is caught at some point or the other, as fooling oneself and a score of colleagues, bosses and clients for a long time is impossible. Therefore, it is important to imbibe a sense of honesty in your employees to prevent any such devious acts which can sabotage your organization beyond repair.

Role of Taking Ownership
Putting in a 100% in every job is important if you want to succeed. Treating your workplace as your own, is the true meaning of ‘taking ownership’. Such an attitude towards the workplace provides a fresh perspective and motivates one to perform with diligence and perfection. As employees work together to achieve predetermined goals, they gel well by overlooking cultural and professional differences. This way, ethical issues related to racism or nepotism is circumvented. Thus, encouraging your employees to take ownership helps in building an ethical organization. An organization which has passionate employees is far more successful than an organization where employees only work towards achieving personal goals.

Role of Loyalty
Loyalty or faithfulness towards work builds a sense of trust amongst employees and the employer. It is a quality that is often talked about, but rarely seen. The role of loyalty is an important one while nurturing an ethical workplace. A loyal employee and will adhere to guidelines, stipulated working hours and deadlines which guarantees efficient productivity and happy clientèle

Loyalty, commitment and rights go hand in hand for creating a conducive work culture in a workplace. It enhances the business literacy and helps in addressing internal problems in a much efficient manner. Because of the differences in personal ethics, every employees needs to be put on one single ethical platform. Thus, ethical standards need to be drafted for the organization. Following these ethics happens to be a personal choice, which can only be explained and expected. It takes great amount of patience and determination to create an ethical working place, which fosters the professional and personal growth in the years to come.

If you want to know how to build strong business work ethics, this article can help. Here are five tips to assess and strengthen your work ethics so that you will be perceived as a good employee and get the career advancement and job satisfaction you desire:

  1. Define your values. If you don’t already have an established set of values, think about what they could be for you. Perhaps you believe in complete transparency and being honest with your staff, or maybe happiness is more important to you than money. Define your values to help you carry out your vision and purpose in life and in the workplace. Ultimately your values reflect on how you treat people around you in the work environment. Embrace positive values to be perceived as a favourable employee.
  2. Get feedback. A good way to assess your work ethics is to ask for feedback.  Don’t be apprehensive about asking your colleagues as well as those in management for feedback on your work ethics—how your attitude is towards others, how you perform as a team player, as a supervisor and more. Ask firm questions like, “Do I have difficulty asserting myself?” or “Am I overly critical?” Knowing the answers to these questions can help you grow both personally and professionally.
  3. Go the extra mile. The work environment has changed considerably. With the advent of emerging technologies and downsizing you find you have to take on many different roles than you were expected of before. Less staff taking on more responsibilities means that you now have to step out of your comfort zone and go the extra mile. Having good work ethics means being willing to take initiative and help those around you cope with extra responsibilities and changes in management.
  4. Determine your standards. When it comes to work ethics do you gossip at your company, complain about company policy at the water cooler, or blindly go with what others say? Or do you focus on the task at hand, taking on responsibility and risks and striving for more? Do you act the same way when you’re alone or does your behaviour change when no one’s around? Ask yourself these questions to determine your standards; the higher they are the stronger your work ethics.
  5. Reflect on your day. Take a few moments to reflect on your day as you lie down to rest for the night. Ask yourself, “What three things did I do that were good today?” followed by, “What 3 things could I have done better?”This could mean patting a deserving employee on the back or a meeting that you could have handled better. Reflecting on your day gives you the opportunity to do better the next day and strengthen your work ethics as you go along.

Work ethics translates into an attitude about work. In a recent meeting with an executive at a multi-billion dollar external service provider, a director interviewed, listed the key traits for an information technology project manager position as “Let’s start with finding people who really want to work and appreciate work.” Having good work ethics means you value the opportunity to work . . . it is an attitude. For the over thirteen million working age Americans with disabilities unemployed in the United States today, the ability to work really means freedom and independence in this country. For those people, their attitude towards work is that being able to work is a treasure.

When employers promote an individual, they list work ethics as a key issue in their selection process. Ina Lavin, Director of Human Resources for Be Free, Inc. stated “Good work ethics is an expectation of our managers. If you do not have good work ethics, you will not be successful.”

If you are not moving up in the company, ask yourself the following questions about your attitude towards work. If your career is really important to you, it may be time to do an honest self-evaluation.

  • Do you have a positive attitude about your job and the company you work for on a daily basis? It is really hard for an employer to believe you exude strong work ethics, if you do not project how much you love your job and the company. If you are grumbling, complaining or part of the “whiner’s club” at work, you will never convince your boss that you have good work ethics, or that you should be promoted.
  • Do you have a high-level of energy at work? To be appointed to manage a large project, you need to make the boss believe you can handle it easily. This is where a healthy lifestyle is critical, with proper rest, nutrition and exercise all-important to your success. Burning the candles at both ends will burn you out.
  • Do you do your job right the first time? This question really comes back to attitude about your job. If you do your job in a haphazard fashion, you really display a poor attitude about work. In addition, this situation causes a real productivity problem for your company. If you do it wrong the first time, you will be doing it over and over until you get it right.
  • Are you willing to work overtime when the company needs you? The employer today needs employees who will be there for them when it counts. In information technology, you will most likely work overtime if you are part of a start-up company or if you are working on a project implementation. In many cases, many high-paying positions do require overtime. This is not an unusual way of life in IT, as well as in many white-collar positions today. If your company needs you and you are not willing to put the time in, you should not wonder why you are always passed over at promotions.
  • Do you realize how visible “work ethics” are in a small company, or in a team? Good work ethics are critical in hiring any employee for any small company

It is amazing how quickly people forget how visible they are in a small company, where every employee must handle multiple tasks. Even in a large corporation, in a team environment, the team player that does not put in their share is quickly labelled as “lazy”.  Remember there are millions of people who would give anything to have what you possess today – employment. Good work ethics means pride in your work. Employment is a treasure you never want to lose.

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