Workplace Ethics and the Perceptions of Employees

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workplace ethics

Workplace Ethics and the Perceptions of Employees

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Perceptions drive expectations, and expectations serve as the measuring stick of fulfillment. What is expected is both the frame and the goal. In matters of workplace ethics who decides the framework of expectations?

Ethical considerations are often quickly connected to the inappropriate shortcut, the sneaky cheaty perception of cutting corners, side deals, or even stealing. What are your ethical boundaries? What is tolerated or welcomed as acceptable in your workplace?

Decisions and Choices

The part-time assistant in the pizza shop may feel entitled to a slice at the end of his or her shift. Is that ethical?

A ream of paper from the office for your home computer so the kids can print stuff out. Is that ethical?

The company car, used for a family vacation. Is that ethical?

In many cases, your first response may be, “It depends.” If so, it depends on what? If others are doing it or if the circumstances surrounding the consumption or use seem to be permitted? Has it always been done this way?

Workplace Ethics

People are often willing to take shortcuts, or use or borrow something that does not belong to them. A popular mindset is that this ethical infringement is owed.

I worked hard during my shift so I get a free slice of pizza at the end.

Perfectly fine if this is a formal agreement as part of the compensation. Sneaking it while no one is looking may be a different story.

Boundaries exist, especially in ethics. A boundary broken may be viewed as a way to move ahead. A cheat, a steal, and against the law.

When someone is willing to cheat a little, will they cheat a lot? Is there a measurement for the allowable size of cheat? Is that the framework for ethics?

You may say, “It depends.”

The ethical question then becomes, “Does it?”

What is your perception?


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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