Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ethics in the Workplace

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Ethics in the Workplace-Internet Article Review

In the end, character will probably be the most important defining characteristic of a company. Ethics are from our values. We develop character through our commitment to our values and principles (Jeter, 000). Ingram (000)states that unethical behavior has caused many businesses to fail. Instead of using principles as guidance, many companies apply “situational ethics” to determine acceptable business practices by rationalizing the circumstances (cited in Jeter, 000). Daniel states that we as a society, have adopted an entitlement philosophy of life that spills over into the work environment (cited in Jeter, 000). Management experts agree that there has been an erosion of trust in the workplace for the last two decades (Jeter, 000). Businesses as well as learning institutions are beginning to take a serious interest in ethics because of the failure of Enron, WorldCom, and other companies that have failed due to unethical behavior.

Unethical behavior is displayed in many areas of our life. Cheating in school is second nature to some. Some employees do not consider taking small items such as pens, notepads, etc. from the workplace as stealing. Slacking on company time or taking care of personal tasks on the job is not an issue for some employees.

Because of the diversity of nationalities in America today, we are experiencing challenges to the Judeo-Christian based value system that has long been accepted as a common value. Because of these challenges, we are losing the “absolutes” that are the basis of a common value system. This could very well lead to the evolution of a society with a value system based on profits rather than ethics and consideration of other people (cited in Jeter, 000). This type of moral and ethical decay is an underlying factor in the failure of businesses in our society today. There is no guilt over being dishonest in business transactions or conversations with associates.

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Most companies implement some kind of policy that governs employee behavior. Many employees do not regard these behavioral policies as anything more than protection for the company against lawsuits. When employees observe senior management behaving in a manner that is inconsistent with company policy, they have no incentive to view the policy in a serious manner. Managers and supervisors set the standards for how their subordinates react to company policy as well as how they react to everyday situations in the workplace. When a company has high ethical standards that are upheld throughout the organization, it will attract quality employees who are loyal to the company, as well as satisfied customers who would recommend the company to others.

Ingram states that “situational ethics” is the norm in the workplace today. Individual situations are rationalized to determine whether a response is acceptable. As a society and as individuals, we have the ability to rationalize every circumstance and justify almost every action as reasonable and correct (cited in Jeter, 000). Many times, we justify our words and actions by using the excuse that everyone else is doing it so it must not be too bad. According to Drabman, we are seeing people achieving the ends they want and justifying the means (cited in Jeter, 000). We are all responsible for our own words and actions and must be willing to accept this responsibility. In today’s world, society as a whole, and even our judicial system, allows individuals to pass the responsibility for their actions to others, based on situational ethics. Our values and ethics have to begin from within. The most effective discipline is that which we impose on ourselves.

As Daniel stated, society has adopted an entitlement philosophy of life that continues into the workplace. We feel that the company owes us something, and therefore, the guilt for theft, goofing off in the workplace, or using company property for our own benefit has been eliminated. The use of alcohol and drugs in the workplace also results in employ theft and poor performance due to the dulled sense to moral conscience (cited in Jeter, 000).

Lack of trust can lead to failure in the workplace. New management approaches include restructuring the workplace to include self-directed work teams (Jeter, 000). Self-directed work teams build trust and loyalty in employees by allowing them to participate in company decisions. Employees who feel a sense of trust from their employer are more likely to feel a sense of value and belonging in the company, and therefore, a commitment to uphold ethical standards.

Owning a business that has no employees other than myself, helps eliminate most of the issues that have been described. However, there are still ethical issues that have to be contended with concerning company assets. I have to be very careful to ensure that designated company property is not used for personal projects, or that use is properly documented. Financial records for the business must be kept separate from personal expenses. The company could handle the documentation by keeping an inventory log and marking every item that is used and the nature of the use. Separate bank accounts could be established for company and personal assets.

In summary, society as a whole must revert to a common value system that upholds moral and ethical behavior in order for us to maintain honest working environments. Organizations can have effective behavior policies as long as they are well executed and upheld throughout the organization. Ethical behavior flows from the top. Management must show responsibility in the example they set forth for their subordinates. We must build a high standard for value and ethics within our own character and not allow ourselves to deviate from these values.


Jeter, L. W. (000). Workplace ethics serious challenge to businesses. Mississippi Business

Journal, (7). Retrieved November 10, 00, from


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