Ethical behaviour in business

Ethical behaviour in business

For centuries, the story of good vs evil, good men versus bad guys, or right versus wrong has been told in novels and films. It is, without a doubt, the most common battle at the heart of all kinds of stories. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the same fight exists in corporate settings under the guise of ethical or unethical behavior. Its no secret that organizations want to be seen as ethical, as we'

ve seen stories about possibly unethical behavior within organizations play out in the media regularly.


Allegations of unethical behavior in the workplace routinely make the front pages of newspapers, causing public relations disasters, operational disruptions, financial obligations, and, in some circumstances, entire organizational collapse. Given the serious financial and reputational implications of unethical behavior, as well as simple claims of unethical activity, its no wonder that stakeholders evaluate organizational attempts to prevent, detect, and respond to it. Because of the heightened scrutiny, understanding the definition of workplace ethics, why workplace ethics are essential, and the single most important thing firms can do differently to support ethical behavior in the workplace is critical.

Understanding ethics in the workplace


Ethics in the workplace is defined as a moral code that directs employee behavior regarding what is right and wrong in terms of conduct and decision-making. Ethical workplace decision-making considers the individual employees best interests and the best interests of those who are impacted. Individual employees frequently struggle to operate ethically in the latter part of the definition. Furthermore, ethical behavior should not be limited to individual employees; the organization should model ethical behavior.



Why is ethical behavior in the workplace important?

Its critical to recognize that ethical workplace behavior can encourage positive employee behaviors that lead to organizational success, just as unethical workplace behavior can result in bad headlines that lead to corporate failure. Simply put, organizational stakeholders, which include individuals, groups, and organizations of all kinds, form a connection with a corporate organization for the firm to safeguard its interests in a specified way. As a result, stakeholders and corporate organizations have a shared expectation that they will operate ethically and in each others best interests.

Related: Advantages of ethical behaviour in business


A decision by the organization or a stakeholder to act unethically can strain the relationship and harm the organizations reputation. The greater risk of reputational damage and impact from bad headlines is frequently the driving force behind businesses efforts to promote and support ethical behaviour and prevent and report unethical activity. Furthermore, in a world where many people are connected to social media via mobile technology, the risk of unethical behaviour damaging an organizations reputation is arguably much higher than in previous decades, as behaviour is more easily captured on video, photographed, shared online, and propelled into headlines.


However, there are advantages to ethical behaviour in the workplace that go beyond protecting ones reputation. Employee perceptions of an organizations ethical behavior can lead to favorable consequences and greater financial results. Employee performance, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, trust, and organizational citizenship behaviors can benefit from a positive perception of ethical behavior. Altruism, conscientiousness, civic virtue, sportsmanship, and civility are examples of organizational citizenship behaviors.

Related: Here Are The Biggest Ethical Issues Facing Businesses


What can organizations do to encourage ethical behaviour in the workplace?

The good news is that businesses may take steps to build a positive narrative around their reputation by enacting policies that assure ethical working conditions and perceptions of organizational support. To report unethical activity, several businesses use reactive systems. However, the single most essential thing that firms can do differently to promote ethical behaviour is to build a proactive employee voice system and use the voice of the employee technologies to provide employees with the ability to be heard ahead of time.


Voice of the employee systems that effectively promote ethical behaviour and encourage reporting unethical behaviour meet five key criteria:

  1. Elegance: be simple to comprehend, applicable to the entire organization and all personnel, and capable of accurately diagnosing problems.
  2. Accessibility: it should be simple to use, extensively advertised, and available to all employees.
  3. Correctness: be well-executed and include complaints follow-up.
  4. Responsiveness: be punctual, be responsive, be used by management, and demonstrate outcomes.
  5. Non-punitiveness: maintain your anonymity and avoid retaliation – Employees and bosses must be safeguarded.


The problem is that while many firms deploy voice-of-the-employee systems with good intentions, the technologies utilized to create voice-of-the-employee systems are ineffective. Voice of the employee techniques, including interviews and surveys, should be used to uncover and stop unethical behaviour proactively:

  • Using an Open-Ended Question: To ensure that all potential concerns are discovered, focus your voice of the employee efforts on asking an open-ended question about compliance awareness. Closed-ended questions dont allow you to expose all conceivable difficulties or all the details you need to grasp them.
  • Externally: To ensure accuracy, the research should be undertaken by an independent third party to eliminate biases and hurdles that prevent employees from expressing their actual feelings about unethical behaviour in the workplace. Internally, its likely that actual perceptions wont be exposed because employees arent being completely honest with the company. Employees may not want to risk alienating management or burning a bridge. Data is systematically collected and thoroughly reported when conducted outside.
  • Using Mixed Methodology – Asking \"Why?\" It is critical to use a mixed-methods research instrument that asks \"why?\" in an open-ended, qualitative manner to avoid limiting the scope of what can be learned from each employee to obtain detailed reasons for perceptions of unethical behaviour. Third-party researchers can conduct high-quality telephonic and web interviews to collect in-depth qualitative replies systematically. You can collect in-depth data and identify the fundamental causes of perceptions by asking fewer open-ended questions and particularly following up to inquire why the participant perceives unethical behaviour.


Data should be routinely gathered to track trends and development, and then used in following data gathering and analysis. External research employs a standardized question set, data collection technology, and a dependable technique to collect responses in a secure system that can be used for future reporting and analysis. This data can then be evaluated to see whether there are any difficulties with specific staff segments, departments, job groups, or even supervisors.


Nyasha D Ziwewe is a Software Developer at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone +263 4 481946-48/481950 or email: or visit our website at

Nyasha Ziwewe
This article was written by Nyasha a Guest at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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