Business Ethics: Everyone’s Doing It, Why Not You?
Everyone knows someone who has walked in late to work without the boss noticing. They know the person who goes outside for a harmless five minute smoke break. The person who uses the company Fed-Ex account to send a package to their family in Iowa. These indiscretions we see and never think to ask ourselves if they are wrong are considered to be in the category of business ethics. Business ethics as defined by Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy website is “…the applied ethics discipline that that addresses the morale features of commercial activity.” (Stanford, P1) In plain terms, business ethics are the morale choices that people make regarding how they conduct themselves while employed.
There are many employees who bend the rules or break them outright. In the world of business ethics, no one can truly call themselves blameless.
During the years of President Clinton, sexual harassment became the media darling that seemed to be the current hot button issue. From Supreme Court Justices, Heavyweight Boxers and all the way up to the president himself, sexual harassment was the current scandal that was making headlines. It appeared that you could not watch a news report without some person being caught with their hand in the cookie jar. This was no different years later at my first job in the corporate setting.
I was against sexual harassment and did not feel that it was ethical or vital to the progression of the rights of women in the work place. It was so far at the front of my mind that I was extra careful about what I said or did towards coworkers of the opposite sex. During this job, the Vice President of Product Development was interested in one of the secretaries on the second floor. The next thing I knew was he was resigning and the department was being restructured. Ethically I knew what allegedly transpired was wrong, but the issue over whether I would keep my job clouded my ethics. I actually was angry at the secretary for blowing the whistle instead of being angry at what had transpired to begin with.
Sexual harassment is one of the hardest accusations to prove and can be damaging to both parties. I believe that the organization can be damaged most by this unethical practice. Most victims are often scared to report sexual harassment for fear of being alienated by their coworkers.
According to statistics posted by Williams Investigations, the FBI says that employee theft is becoming the fastest growing crime in the US. The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that 75% of employees steal from their employer and most do it regularly. 1/3 of all corporate bankruptcy is employee theft related. The American Society of Employers estimates that 20% of every dollar earned by an organization is lost due to employee theft. (Williams Investigations)
Employee theft is a damaging unethical business practice that many employees never think twice about. Many do not realize they do it. Employee theft ranges from office supplies to time theft. Coming in late to work without making up the time or taking an extra 15 minutes at lunch is employee theft. Many employees do not realize how much time they actually steal from their employers. Each employee is responsible for the time they spend at work and how they spend it. Drawing upon past experiences I have seen several coworkers fired over employee theft ranging from stolen goods which is blatant to taking a smoke break which the employee may think nothing about. Ethically all of these are unethical business practices most of us are guilty of committing.
Another unethical business practice is dishonesty. While many of us consider our indiscretion in this area to be nothing more than harmless white lies, we could be fired for them. The lies most people commit are the ones they tell directly to their boss. Employees will often call in a sick day without being sick so they can have a day off or claim they are taking care of an ill family member to get out of work for the day. This unethical practice has consequences not just for the person lying, but to anyone who needs to pick up the slack for the person who called in.
Many times during my career I have had to make up time for sick employees who claim they have been sick. On the flip side, I have committed this act and was caught. When I was early in my career I called in sick to get out of work early to go out to a baseball game. When I got to the game I ran into a coworker who took a vacation day in order to attend the game. He confronted me because there was a deadline and no one to cover my work that needed to get done. My boss reprimanded me and luckily I was left off with a warning.
Each day we are confronted with choices that we must make. Most of the time the choice comes down to whether it will further of hurt our career. Many ask, “Will I get caught” or “what’s the worst that could happen if I am”? The truth is that many of us do not even consider the consequences of our actions when making the choice. Making ethical decisions can be difficult if you have been given bad examples, but listening to your conscience, maybe the most common sense to remember.
(2008). Undercover. Jwpi.com. Retrieved March 23, 2009 from the World Wide Web: http://www.jwpi.com/undercover.htm
(2008, 16 April). Business Ethics. Stanford.edu. Retrieved March 23, 2009 from the World Wide Web: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-business/