Ethics at the Individual Level


Ethical Behavior at the Workplace

What does it mean to be unethical in the workplace? It may include taking personal phone calls during your duty time; asserting that the "check is in the mail," when it is still in the making; and even stealing office supplies for personal use.

Organizations usually create an ethical standards’ code or a manual is handed over when a new employee joins, which generally lists the rules and guidelines which needs to be adhered at all times.

Many issues prevent business people from being completely ethical, consistent, and fair. Ethics is a dynamic issue and sometimes it is difficult to decide at the specific moment what is considered ethical and what is not.

Ethical Lapses and Organizational Culture

Business ethics includes human qualities of, and it does not provide the angelic qualities. Therefore, if a businessman is overwhelmed, there is a possibility that ethical rules will be twisted. It is known as "ethical lapse," which is a short-term and quite rare occurrence.

Ethics at an individual level may seem to involve only the individual but it is a holistic process. There may be high pressure from co-workers, managers, or any other constituent of business culture to be unethical. Individuals may hate such pressures, and tend to work avoiding the dilemmas.

Basic Attributes of Ethical Workers

To be ethical in the workplace, the workers must have some common attributes. The most influential attributes are the following −


Dedication is one of the most important attributes of an ethical worker. Companies do seek results, but most employers look for an honest effort from employees who can be considered a “natural” at the job. When an employee joins the workforce, he/she is agreeing to offer the best for helping the company to flourish.


Integrity, or displaying honest behavior at all times, is a very important attribute. Integrity might mean, being honest in reporting or being transparent while reporting cash transactions.


Accountability means to be responsible towards the time and duty during working hours. It also means accepting responsibility, gathering yourself and willingly working towards an acceptable resolution. Taking initiative and being punctual also comes under this purview.


Teamwork and collaboration are valuable attributes. As most companies believe that if morale is high and everyone co-works, success will follow. Therefore, it is important for employees to be team players.


Employee conduct is a very important value in ethics. Employees must treat others with respect, and show appropriate behavior. Wearing proper attire, using fine language and conducting them with professionalism are part of the job.

Being a Better Worker

Understanding how to be a better person in the workplace is a good starting point for a commitment to always doing the right thing.

Trusting Relationships

It is important to build trust in workplace relationships. By allowing people to open up, share information and feel comfortable in communicating are signs of a trustworthy employee. Honesty, fairness and avoiding rumors are some basic qualities.

Team Cohesiveness

The ethical commitments of employees have a positive effect on team and department performance apart from enhancing individual performance. An ethical employee is a better team player, who always makes positive contributions for teams and never hinders the group progress.

Value to Employers

Trust in their employees is a very important quality of companies. An unethical employee can drive entire company in legal trouble, or it can destroy the hard-earned reputation. Ethical employees working for any company are the employees who adhere to ethics policies and use ethical reasoning in making decisions.

Personal Wellness

Ethical employees always increase value of an employer in public domain. Unethical acts can weigh people down with guilt and paranoia, making them hostile and fearful. Employees who spread unethical rumors or lies about others can have a paranoia as they try to remember which lies they told to whom and when.

Core Values

According to Martin Seligman, some core virtuous values influence ethical behavior and appear to have universal appeal. These are −

Wisdom and Knowledge

The talent to gather information and convert it to something useful is a great quality. Wisdom is capitalizing one’s experience to interpret information and being knowledgeable to produce wise decisions. A prerequisite to be knowledgeable is knowing what to do and being able to differentiate between the right and wrong.


It is important to have the ability to avoid unethical temptations. The decision to take the ethical path needs enough commitment to the value of good ethics. Ethical people usually say “no” to the individual gain if it is irrelevant to institutional benefit and goodwill.

Justice and Fair Guidance

Fair treatment of people is important. Justice is served when a fair return is gained in return for the energy and effort expended. Certain individuals give special treatment without regard to objective criteria by which to judge fairness.


It is the recognition of something beyond oneself more permanent and powerful than the self. When one lacks transcendence, he may tend towards self-absorption. Leaders motivated by self-interest and the exercise of personal power have limited effectiveness and authenticity.

Love and Kindness

The expression of love and kindness is always productive. Research shows that there are different types of “love.” In an organizational context, love means intense positive reaction to co-workers, groups and/or situations. An organization “with heart” allows love, compassion and kindness among and between people.

Courage and Integrity

It is important to have the courage to act ethically and with integrity. These values let us decide right from wrong and acting accordingly. They impel one to act in the right manner without considering personal consequences, even when it is tough and needs benevolence.