Ethics is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, “a set of moral issues that is a guiding philosophy that deals with good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.” (Definition of ETHICS, 2020). We as young humans learn what is right and what is wrong from a variety of different places. When we interact with others, our parents, letting us know, teachers in school, and religious places of worship. We learn what is right from wrong all the time, but as a young person, our brains absorb the learning like a sponge, and deciphers everything we are taught. It is not until later in life when we can put all the puzzle pieces together and make out what that picture looks like, that we fully understand the difference from what is right and what is wrong. There are no two people in this world who are the same. Even siblings that grew up within the same environment, have different views on the world. These views, that each of us holds within us, are what shape what we think and how we act. A majority of people in the world, can look at a given situation, and tell you if the situation is right or wrong. There are a few that given the situation do not make the connection. By looking into why they cannot make the connection between rights and wrong, this paper will try to convey why people make unethical choices in the workplace, and how we can mitigate the damage done. Ethics is a very important part of the business organization. If a well thought out and clearly communicated plan is set before the organization, people will and should now what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in the workplace. This plan will reinforce behavior in people that have a good foundation, and will teach those whose foundation may be lacking.
Ethics is not a new buzzword that has come up in society because of business, but ethics is a part of business that cannot survive without them. Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher described ethics as, “What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor and wealth fit together as a whole.” (‘Aristotle’s Ethics (S.E.P.)’, 2020). Ethics are something you cannot feel, see, hear, or smell. They are an intrinsic set of beliefs we carry and are personal to each and every one of us. We need ethics to communicate with other people, to build relationships, and ultimately survive in a world that is ready to consume us. Not just in our personal lives, but in our work lives as well. In a LikedIn article titled, Nine Golden Rules to Professional Ethics, Leanardo Valente described ethics as not just being in in the workplace, but in our daily lives. (Valente, 2014). Some people think that ethics can be turned on and off, but they cannot, they are the values and morals we all have inside of us. These beliefs help us make choices in life that drive us to success or failure. Lord Baden-Powell founder of the Boy Scouts of America realized the value of teaching children at an early age about ethics. He came up with the Scout Oath which teaches 12 values that he thought are important to people, these values are; Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent. (Baden-Powell of Gilwell, 1908). Ethics can be tied to the foundation of what makes a person or an organization good. By being ethical choices are made that are morally right, even when no one is watching. Ethical people are about helping others. Ethical businesses are businesses that are willing to do what is right no matter the cost.
Ethics deals with people. Within an organization, people are the reason that a business is formed. From customers who have needs and wants, to the workers who produce those products for customers, to the support operations who support the production of said products. Ethics comes into play on an individual basis as well. Every person in the world has to come into contact with ethics at some point in the day. Ethics can be summed up as the choices we make in order to move forward. These choices can either be right or wrong, and can affect countless other people, besides ourselves. Sandra Caffo gives an insight as to why people views of ethics may be differing in her article, Through the looking Glass: Instinctual and Cultural Influences on U.S. Workers’ Views of Ethics and the Workplace. She gives different reasons why one person may have a different ethical makeup over another. Some of her examples are; increased information overload, workforce ages (multigenerational), global markets, racial, cultural and language. She explains that these forces all shape what we think are right and wrong in the workplace. (Caffo, 2011, Pg. 164).
In an organization, all people have to make choices on a daily basis. In most organizations, the leadership may have to make some of the more important choices. They may have to come up with ways to make sure that good choices are being made to benefit the organization. All aspects should be addressed from the bottom of the organization to the top. Leaders have the power to influence people. Their influence could be for the good or for the bad. In an article authored by Jennifer Stellar and Robb Willer, Unethical and Inept? The Influence of Moral Information on Perceptions and Competence, they entertain the idea that people in general believe that when a person commits immoral or unethical behaviors, this makes them seem less intelligent to others. (Stellar & Willer, 2018). This perception goes back to what Aristotle gave as an answer to Ethics. Being morally right dictates whether or not others will trust in what you know. It has no bearing on how intelligent you really are.
By having as written down policy, everyone can abide by good ethical standards. Just as in life, leaders go before followers and make sure that the followers are safe. They guide the followers around and through parts of a trail that could be dangerous. Leaders help the followers achieve a goal. They will push followers to keep on going when they feel as though they do not want to any longer. Leaders will make a trail if none are available. They will teach, coach, and partake in the whole process. In the end, the leaders and the followers will accomplish what they set out to accomplish. The term leader should be quantified by the understanding that this person is someone who knows about the trail, or has had plenty of experience on trails in the past. They should be experts at not only finding their way in the outdoors, but being able to survive with little or no resources. The leader is trusted to do what is right and to make choices that are best for the group. IN the Article The Double-Edged Sword of Leader Humility: Investigating When and Why Leader Humility Promotes Versus Inhibits Subordinate Deviance, they authors describe that, “humility has three major components: (a) a willingness to view oneself accurately and acknowledge personal limits, faults, and mistakes; (b) an appreciation of others’ strengths and contributions; and (c) teachability, or openness to new ideas and feedback.”(Qin, Chen, Yam, Huang & Ju, 2019, Pg. 3). Being a human first rather than a slave driver, always helps a leader find followers. When a follower is looking for a leader to go hiking with, they are not going to settle with the least experienced leader, with the minimum requirements. They want an experienced leader that knows the terrain, and one who has stories of survival. There is no difference in a leader in the business world. Followers want to be safe knowing their leaders have their backs, and are not going to ask them to do things that the leader himself would not do. They want a leader who has been there and done that, and who is looking out for the betterment of the team, not just himself. In the work place all workers prize relationships, over saying something bad to another employee.
Followers or employees are involved with the ethics of an organization. They have the power to put the policy into play. If the policy is well written, and communicated, employees can implement the standards and become a policeman of the policy. When they see the policy being violated, they can address the violation to make sure compliance is available. A majority of employees are ethical and do the right thing when asked. Some need a gentle reminder, while others, do not get it, and may need reprimanded or terminated. Ryan Bisel et al., wrote in an article, Workers’ Moral Mum Effect: on Facework and Unethical Behavior in the Workplace, that workers generally refuse to provide negativity about job performance to others they work with. (Bisel, Kelley, Ploeger & Messersmith, 2011, Pg. 155). They suggest that professionals need to be able to criticize the team or an individual for their lack of performance. (Pg. 166). The need for others to be ethical is evident in the workplace. When an inept actor comes in, it is usually his coworkers that recognize he deficiency, without them saying anything, the actor will continue on without changing his actions, ultimately causing the team to fail, and could cost the organization a huge amount of money.