Common Ethical Issues Found in Workplaces

Business ethics is the application of ethical values in the business. This applies in all business conduct ranging from how we treat each other in work, relationships with our bosses, how we treat company assets, and many other issues. According to the Institute of Business Ethics, (n.d) ethics go beyond the legal aspect because it’s discretionary decisions and behavior guided by values. Business ethics should be inculcated and made an inherent culture in an organization based on ethical values trust, honesty, respect, and integrity.

Different workplaces experience different ethical issues because of the settings and the practices of the business. Unethical Business ethics cut across the organization. They are important from an employee to the organization, employer to the employee. A company should have rules on business ethics and how to deal with the various ethical issues that may arise.

Employees have unethical behavior towards the organization. Stealing is one of the most common unethical behaviors among employees. Stealing ranges from embezzlement, fraud, time, misuse of the company’s resources, etc. Now and then there are cases of employees who embezzled funds from an organization. This may be done by fictitious buying of goods, colluding with suppliers to charge exorbitant prices for services rendered or goods supplied. This is very common where the accounts department colludes to defraud the company and they get a certain percentage out of the deal.

Employees also engage in stealing company time. This can be done by being late or leaving early. This is done by clocking in and leaving the station of duty, letting someone clock in for them, and other sorts of time stealing. In this technological era, time-stealing has taken a different form. Many employees are stealing the company’s time by spending a lot of time on social sites or playing computer games during work hours. This greatly affects the productivity of an individual and the company. Most companies are dealing with such time stealing behaviors by blocking such sites. Some companies also have surveillance cameras so that the management can monitor what the employees are doing.

Misuse of company resources is also very common. Company cars are used to run personal errands and the fuel is charged to the office. Some employees make personal calls using the office phone or the allocated airtime for business transactions. Others make copies of personal documents using the company’s resources. The company can centralize its phone network such that outside calls can only be made from a central point. Also keeping proper records such as mileage will help reduce the misuse of company resources. Misuse also applies to how employees treat the company’s assets. Employees should take care of the assets such as the fax machines, photocopiers, computers, or any other assets of the company.

Some employees share confidential information with other employees or outsiders so that they can gain something. This was brought to light by the case of Martha Stewart where a company’s employee disclosed information about the business’s financial results which helped her avert huge losses giving her undue advantage over the other shareholders. This was very unethical as it is prohibited to share the company’s information.

There are unethical issues that the management may commit against the organization and the employees. Favoritism tops the list of unethical practices of employers. When it comes to paying raises, the promotion you will find that most times it’s not done on merit but other factors. So the most deserving candidate ends up being left out. This is especially so where the boss might have other vested interests in an employee. Most employers will rarely accept mistakes even when it’s explicitly clear that they were responsible. They end up shifting the blame to employees who on many occasions will not dare defend themselves because of the fear of losing their job. This is unethical because there should be a sense of responsibility and not just taking credit when things are smoothly running.

Conflict of interest is very common with the management. This happens when the management wants to deal with clients suppliers or customer who the management has a special interest in and may limit his judgment and subjectivity. Managers may accept gifts from business partners and this may result in the manager favoring the particular partner over others overlooking the most qualified or the best offer in the market. Conflict may also come in when the manager may start or own a business which is in the same line of business as the organization they are working for or become suppliers to the company. This will ultimately compromise the procurement process because of the interests of the manager.

Relationships at work are highly discouraged because they can cause a lot of tension and distractions at work. Whether it’s between employee and the boss or between the employees it should be discouraged. Most companies opt for the resignation of one of the partners. Relationship between employee and bosses will result in favoritism and if it is not mutual can bring about sexual harassment as an employee is coerced or threatened with a sack if they do not agree to it.

Business ethics may be personal but may affect the working process in the company. Proper personal hygiene is very important and as much as it may not be entrenched in the company’s rules it helps to create a conducive working environment. Respect for people and their property, being polite, punctuality are all ethics that we should try to uphold in our workplaces. Carter Mcnamara (2008) suggests that we should come up with a company’s code of conduct which will include ethical values derived from review of key laws and regulations, ethical behaviors needed in your product or service area, behaviors to address current issues in your workplace, and behaviors needed to reach strategic goals. The code should be strictly followed to ensure there are proper ethics in our workplace.


Institute of Business Ethics, (n.d), doing business ethically…makes for better business, 2009. Web.

Mcnamara C. (2008), Complete Guide to Ethics Management: An Ethics Toolkit for Managers, Authenticity Consulting LLC. Web.

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