When we think of ethical issues in the workplace, we often envision acts of gross negligence. Years of working in HR has shown me that some level of ethical violations happen every single day. It is unethical to open your purse and discover that you “accidentally” took several pens from work. It is unethical for a company to pass over a qualified candidate simply because they have the wrong zip code or because there are too many consonants in their last name. It is unethical to vent to a co-worker about another colleague’s quality of work. Yes, gossip is unethical! Timecard violations and PTO abuse are big problems in most organizations. These few examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
Ethics begins at home. We cannot fix the companies we work for unless we first monitor and adjust our own ethical compasses. Begin by cultivating virtues including:
Once your own ethical foundation is in place, my hope is that you will no longer accept anything less from the leaders you support. When leaders realize that they cannot recruit and retain strong, ethical candidates, they will start to make ethics a bigger priority. Ethics is not just about not doing harm. It is about doing good.