What would you do if you saw someone stealing office supplies or wasting company time on personal things? Would you keep it to yourself, tell a coworker, or tell a supervisor? Unfortunately, employees encounter these ethical dilemmas in the workplace far too often. The issue is not whether or not the act is wrong—almost everyone can determine what exactly is ethical or not—but rather, how to handle the dilemma. Dealing with workplace ethics dilemmas improperly can lead to a strained work environment.
Ethics consultant Mark Pastin claims that, although employees can accurately identify a situation as ethical or unethical, they may “go along with something they think is unethical because they fear the consequences of raising the issue.” Pastin defined 4 personality types for dealing with workplace ethics and how each type affects the workplace.
Compare these to your current staff so you can begin to work out a plan for handling ethical dilemmas in your workplace.
- The Conformist – This is an employee who follows rules, obeys orders, and may seem like a 100 percent ethical individual. However, this employee will likely look the other way if a higher-up staff member does something questionable. Their fault is valuing authority above ethics.
- The Navigator – This employee will rely on their own moral compass when confronted with an unethical situation. This type generally has a sound moral compass, allowing them to make the right decision, even if it is a difficult one.
- The Negotiator – This employee prefers to make up the rules as they go along. This type will often take a wait-and-see attitude when faced with an ethical dilemma. They will wait and see if it begins to directly affect them or wait and see if others notice the dilemma as well.
- The Wiggler – This employee doesn’t give much thought to right and wrong; instead, they do whatever is most advantageous for themselves. The Wiggler and his moral compass are motivated by self-interest.
Pastin states that ethical dilemmas are completely solvable if employees and managers are open to discussing them. He continues to explain that a more ethical work environment is achievable if concerns are addressed in a timely manner, and when disagreement and controversy are welcomed in these ethical discussions.
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