Work Ethics at Workplace


Ms. Nidhi Dhiman
Faculty Member (Finance & HR)
ICFAI National College
Sagar (M.P.)

The versatility of life sometimes put us in front of situations where we really stuck in a tug of war between good and not good. Imagine a situation where a customer asked for a product from you. After telling him the price, he said he couldn't afford it. You know he could get it cheaper from a competitor. Should you tell him about the competitor or let him go without getting what he needs? What will you do? What are the issues you will think before coming to a conclusion?

What your conscious says, if you know that one of your colleague is going to invest heavy money unknowingly  that he is going to laid off very soon under the terms of company plans.


Ethics are about making choices that may not always feel good or seem like they benefit you but are the 'right' choices to make.  They are the choices that are examples of 'model citizen' and are the examples of 'golden rules' like; don't hurt, don't steal, don't be dishonest, don't lie. But if we take Ethics as a subjective philosophy then what will happen to these golden rules. Especially at the time of facing any ethical dilemma how one should decide - what is ethical and what's unethical? Organization provides rules, regulations, code of conduct, protocols which provide guidelines to work, it shows how to walk, but it does not show the correct path to walk on. Ethical dilemmas faced by managers are often more real to life and highly complex with no clear guidelines, whether in law or often in religion.

 Ethics is the part of philosophy that talks about good and evil but today rarely any business school would have left which does not provide lessons on Ethics Management. Some philosophers call ethics the "science of morality", morality is what someone thinks or feels is good or bad. However, other philosophers believe that ethics is subjective. This means that they think what is right for me is whatever I say is right. This means that ethics is just a person's own morality. These philosophers do not think that ethics is the same for all people.


Again, what morally correct is not always ethically also. Morals and the expression, "moral values" are generally associated with a personal view of values. Personal morals tend to reflect beliefs relating to drinking, gambling, etc. They can reflect the influence of religion, culture, family and friends. These concepts and beliefs about right and wrong are often generalized and codified by a culture or group, and thus serve to regulate the behavior of its members. Conformity to such codification may also be called morality, and the group may depend on widespread conformity to such codes for its continued existence.


When we talk about Law at work place, we discuss the set of rules imposed by authority. In other words, law is a rule or body of rules of conduct inherent in organization and essential to or binding upon all the employees.

Ethics + Morality + Law

The systematic study of morality is a branch of philosophy called ethics. When Ethics seeks to address questions such as how one ought to behave in a specific situation ("applied ethics"), how one can justify a moral position ("normative ethics"), and how one should understand the fundamental nature of ethics or morality itself, including whether it has any objective justification ("meta-ethics").

Ethics is concerned with how a moral person should behave. Ethical values are beliefs concerning what is morally right and proper as opposed to what is simply correct or effective. An individual may personally believe that drinking is immoral. However, drinking is not, in and of itself, unethical. Game shows are a sophisticated way of gambling thus immoral but not unethical. Further, it is unethical to impose your personal moral values on another.

Ethical values go above cultural, religious, or ethnic differences. Ethical values embrace a more universal worldview.

Albert Einstein said, "A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, social ties; no religious basis is necessary."

Sometimes, we have to do things which are legally correct but not morally, or go ethically right but not morally. At workplace we have to keep a proper balance of Morality, Ethics and Law. The safest place is where your action covers all the three aspects (EML). From the organization's point of view you must not cross the boundaries of law i.e. perform within EL, EM, L or EML. Further, An employee may not always follow the law sometime he could listen to his ethics but one should always have the answer of breaking the law of Worklife.

In the words of great Abraham Lincon "When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion."

Many organizations are providing Ethics management workshops for their employees to refrain them from such situations. There are a number of benefits such workshop bring in like,

i. It removes undue stress which may result in the wrecked work relationship, low turnover, accidents etc.

ii. It cultivates strong teamwork and productivity.

iii. These programs are like insurance policy because even at the turbulent times a company can relay on its manforce.

iv. It builds good image of a company in market which provides such programs.

v. Such programs give positive affect on Public relations.

There are certain other benefits also which will encourage an organization to run such programs. HP, Johnson & Johnson, Ben and Jerry are some of the well known names in the field of 'Working with Ethics'. These companies have adopted some guidelines to cultivate and maintain ethics in work life.  Some of the guidelines listed below may be followed by a company for the said purpose:

i. A company and its employees should always believe that managing ethics is a continuous process and it is inherent like any other management function in the organization.

ii. The ground of ethics management is relationship and behavior is the root, thus without fair and just behavior an organization cannot make their employees follow ethical practices.

iii. As the Mc Gregor's Red hot stove rule says, the administration of discipline should be more like touching a hot stove i.e. immediate, impersonal, consistent, and foreseeable; in the same way the act of breaking ethical norms/ code must be rooted out in its very initial stage. The codes must be applicable to each and every employee without discrepancy.

iv. Value forgiveness. It's better to try operating ethically and committing few mistakes than not trying at all.

v. Participation of employees in such programs must be sought out. Employee must feel that working with ethics is as much necessary for the good health for the organization as fresh air is for human being.  

A company may adopt different ways and methods to bring in work ethics in work life.

Further, the other side of the coin is "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws": Pluto.

Whether the circumstance is business or life, ethical values should be ground-rules for behavior. When we live by these values we are demonstrating that we are worthy of trust.

Ms. Nidhi Dhiman
Faculty Member (Finance & HR)
ICFAI National College
Sagar (M.P.)

Source: E-mail April 25, 2006


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