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Ethical Issues & Behaviours in the workplace

This article contains a list of ethical behaviours and issues in the workplace that you need to take note of.


As hard as it may sound, so many workplaces do not take ethics into cognizance. This is why a lot of people tend to get away with all manner of misconducts at workplaces.

For better understanding, ethics in the workplace can be defined as a set of rules, or standards that guide employees as well as the employer, to act in line with the morals and values of the company. These ethics can be positive or negative.

Regardless of whether you work remotely or commute to work on a daily basis, workplace ethic is necessary for efficiency and maintenance of orderliness in a workplace.

These ethics are implemented by employers to foster both employee-employee relationship and employee-customer relationships. They may or may not be documented, depending on the organization.

However, there are ethics that are unique to a particular organization which are best documented for reference purposes, while some are ethics that is expected of every responsible human to imbibe naturally.

Having realised that a lot of employers and employees can’t tell between appropriate and inappropriate ethics, this article will be dedicated to identifying some of these ethics.


There are a wide range of ethical behaviours in the workplace. On the list include the following:

1. Punctuality/Timeliness

A lot of organizations, if not all, have resumption times of which every employee is expected to keep to such times. This is however a very important work ethic many employees are striving so hard to maintain.

For remote workers, it is somewhat complicated. However, in the case of remote workers, timeliness and ability to meet up with deadlines is synonymous to punctuality.

To further ensure employees maintain this, lateness to work usually attracts query from the management.

2. Appearance

Oftentimes, this is understood to mean dressing alone. But there is more to appearance than how a person is dressed.

When it comes to the workplace, appearance ought to be a strong ethic, and that deals with all aspects of how a person is perceived. Depending on the career, acceptable appearances will vary. It is only natural to form opinions about a person based on:  Dress sense, cleanliness, carriage, etc.

However, depending on the career and organisation, acceptable appearances vary. Regardless of the job, there is no excuse for not having a nice appearance.

3. Trustworthiness

This is synonymous to honesty. This is a very vital ethic in every organization, but sadly, getting employees who can uphold and exhibit this, appears to be very rare. Trustworthiness is when an employee gives their best to work with little or no supervision,

Keeps appropriate records without altering data for dubious reasons, etc.

Trustworthiness fosters healthy relationships between employers and employees, as well as between organizations and their clients.

For organisations that have maintained this ethics, it has earned them more customers. On the part of employees, when you display a high level of trustworthiness, you will certainly be the best man for that promotion.

4. Respect

This is all encompassing. It ranges from how you relate with fellow colleagues, customers down to your ability to obey the rules and regulations guiding the organization.

Regardless of what level an employee is at in a company, whether it be an intern, manager, or CEO, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Companies that implement this value into the workplace are perceived in a positive light.

As a manager, treating your team members with respect will help improve their productivity and loyalty for the organization.

Nobody likes to be disrespected and as such, giving constructive criticism and using kind words on employees even when they don’t meet up to expectations will help them strive to do better.

5. Effective Communication

This is a very important workplace-ethic which a lot of individuals and organisations pay less attention to. To a lot of people, ethics goes beyond honesty.

Effective communication may mean different things to different individuals at any given time. Communication is not effective in the following circumstances;

  • if the information is not communicated in a clear language,
  • if the message is sent through the wrong channel,
  • if there is no feedback where there ought to be one.

Effective communication is very important to avoid misunderstandings when dealing with issues in the workplace.

So, for instance, due to unforeseen circumstances an employee may choose to stay off from work. Effective communication in this case is when the employee sends a message across to the right offices to inform them about the situation at hand.

Doing this will avert issues, but where this is not properly communicated, there may be consequences for being nonchalant.

6. Accountability

An employee may be hardworking, intelligent and smart but when he or she fails in the aspect of being accountable, he or she has to pay for it.

It is the joy of every employer to know that they have staff who exhibits a high level of accountability. This is why a business owner can comfortably leave his business in the care of a salesperson, knowing fully well that nothing will go wrong, and if at all things go south; it will be properly accounted for.

I once worked with a person who hated the word “I don’t know”. To him, that’s a sign of nonchalance. You cannot afford to know nothing. You should be accountable; else you get into a messy situation.

No doubt, mistakes are inevitable, but how you deal with them is important. Taking ownership of your mistakes and learning from them is an important part of creating an ethical workplace.

7. Take Responsibility

Just like accountability, taking responsibility is another vital workplace ethic.

It is important for employees to always take responsibility for decisions made both individually and collectively. It might be difficult to get very responsible employees.

Sometimes, the reason why a lot of employees do not live by this ethics is due to the fear of losing their job. As unbelievable as this may sound, it is easier to retain a job when you’re known to always open up to mistakes than when you shy away from taking responsibilities.

Some of these ethics ensure maximum productivity at work.


In recent times, there are a lot of unethical behaviours in work places that are seen to be normal. Hence, anybody can just get away with such behaviour, unconcerned.

Here are some:

1. Lies

This has become so common that it is seen as normal. Lying is a trait that should be frowned at in and outside the workplace. It kills trust and affects work relationship.

There are different situations where employees lie. In cases like where an employee will call in sick just to have time to attend to other personal issues, lying about sales made, filling the wrong time of resumption and lots more. Funny enough, a lot of employees even start lying in their CV’s in areas like; experience gained, age, skills acquired, etc.

When critically observed, some employees take to telling lies to protect their jobs.

This may be termed being smart but it is important to understand that lying backfires in the long run. Rather than lie, it’s best to be transparent from the onset to avoid unnecessary problems.

2. Taking Credit for Others’ Hard Work

It is very common for managers to take credit for their team member’s hard work and ideas when reporting to the management.

A team member may have given a perfect idea to help the company to boost sales. Normally it is expected that the team manager acknowledges the brilliant idea of the team member in question but instead when giving a report, the manager doesn’t mention the team member’s name but rather takes the praise.

This dubious act will only discourage the person from sharing ideas that will benefit the company, subsequently. Many organizations do not see anything wrong in this behaviour and that is why a lot of such organizations have remained stagnant.

3. Harassment/Abuse

Harassment in the workplace takes various forms ranging from use of foul, sexual and verbal abuse. While verbal abuse is not treated with much serious like sexual abuse, it’s effect on the company and individual can be very dangerous.

Oftentimes, these forms of abuse are meted out by the employer. Although in rare cases it is seen amongst colleagues or from employees to customers. Employees need to desist from using foul language on coworkers either in or out of the workplace. This is very important when dealing with customers.

As a customer care representative, salesperson or any other employee, it is very important that you don’t use abusive words on customers no matter how provoked.

On the other hand, it is common among employers to verbally harass employees when they make mistakes. This will reduce employee’s confidence and productivity.

Furthermore, sexual harassment is an another unethit behaviour that shouldn’t be condoned regardless of the offender.

While many companies have a zero-tolerance rate for sexual harassment in and outside the workplace, it has become a norm in many other organizations. This may tarnish the image of the company.

4. Non-Office Related Work

Judging from the rate of inflation, one would see nothing wrong in an employee trying to make ends meet by getting involved in other non-office related work.

Well, there might not even be anything wrong with it if we want to be sentimental, but ethically, it is professionally wrong. It has become so bad that some employees who probably have the leverage to do so have ended up misusing the privilege.

Employees who have other side jobs should try doing them on weekends or get help to manage it to avoid encroaching into work hours. This often leads to under-delivery and incompetence.

5. Theft/Embezzlement

There are many cases of theft and embezzlement recorded in many organizations today. It’s either an employee is diverting company funds into their bank account, altering project quotations, invoices, etc.

This act is detrimental to the company because it can get a company to the point of liquidation.

6. Nepotism

This is one of the common corrupt practices in the workplace.

Ever been in an organization where an employee sacrificed their all to see to the growth of the company and when it was time for either a promotion, recommendation and award, such an employee gets sidelined and losses to another person with more connection  or someone who is related to the employer? These are daily occurrences in workplaces. Unfortunately, things like these reduce an employee’s zeal to go extra length for an organization. It could also breed hate in a workplace.


Workplace ethics is not for employees alone. Employers are also bound to workplace ethics and may also be punished for unethical behaviors.  It is so sad that so many workplaces do not even have guiding ethics, anything goes, while for some organizations, unethical behaviours have been normalized.

This article is basically to draw the attention of organizations to areas they are missing in order to get them to sit up. The success of every organization depends on ethics and thus should be taken seriously.

Overall, unethical behaviours at workplaces should have consequences while ethical behaviours should be encouraged.

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