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John Daly: How to Avoid Lapses in Workplace Ethics

By John Daly for The Key Class |

The best way to shoot holes in your self-image is to create lapses in workplace ethics. This will destroy your chances for advancement and have coworkers distancing themselves from you.

So, what are fundamental workplace ethics? Do you make up excuses for your behavior? Do you feel guilty after you’ve failed to act ethically on any given circumstance? Susan M. Heathfield — author of an article, “Did You Bring Your Ethics to Work Today?” — lists examples of employees failing to practice fundamental workplace ethics.

» You take office supplies from work to use at home because you justify, you often engage in company work at home, or you worked extra hours this week, etc.

» You use the last roll of toilet paper or the last piece of paper towel in the company restroom. Without thought for the needs of the next employee, you go back to work rather than addressing the issue.

» You call in sick to your supervisor because it’s a beautiful day to go to the beach, or shopping, or ...

» You engage in an affair with a coworker while married because no one at work will ever know. You think you’re in love, you think you can get away with it, your personal matters are your own business, the affair will not have an impact on other employees or the workplace, yada, yada, yada ... Right.

» You place your dirty cup in the lunchroom sink. With a guilty glance around the room, you find no one watching and quickly leave.

» Your company sponsors events, activities or lunches and you sign up to attend and fail to show. Conversely, you fail to sign up and show up anyway. You make the behavior worse when you say that you took the appropriate action so someone else must have screwed up.

» You tell potential customers that you are the vice president in charge of something. When they seek out the company VP at a trade show, you tell your boss that the customers must have made a mistake.

» You work in a restaurant in which wait staff tips are shared equally and you withhold a portion of your tips from the common pot before the tips are divided.

» You have sex with a reporting staff member and then provide special treatment to your flame. How about you just have sex, period? No impact? Wrong! Can you spell sexual harassment?

» You spend several hours a day using your work computer to shop, check out sports scores, pay bills, do online banking, and surf the news headlines for the latest celebrity news and political opinions.

» You use up the last paper in the communal printer and you fail to replace paper, leaving the task to the next employee who uses the printer.

» You hoard supplies in your desk drawer so you won’t run out while other employees go without supplies they need to do their work.

» You overhear a piece of juicy gossip about another employee and then repeat it to coworkers. Whether the gossip is true is not the issue. Trust me.

» You tell a customer or potential customer that your product will perform a particular action when you don’t know if it will and you don’t check with an employee who does.

» You allow a part that you know does not meet quality standards leave your work station and hope your supervisor or the quality inspector won’t notice.

» You claim credit for the work of another employee, or you fail to give public credit to a coworker’s contribution, when you share results, make a presentation, turn in a report or in any other way appear to be the sole owner of a work product or results.

» You fudge your expense account, claiming more expenses and falsifying receipts spent on personal rather than business use or misuse company assets.

» You have a close personal relationship with a contractor that constitutes a conflict of interest.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of workplace ethical failures at work. You will be able to get away with some of them. The rest will catch up to you. This type of behavior is addictive and grows. After the first time, it becomes easier and easier.

The point is that without ethics, there is no trust, no respect and certainly no real chance for this type of behavior to propel you into success. Like lies, unethical behavior will catch up with you eventually and destroy everything that you’ve tried to build.

Think about all the other types of unethical behaviors that are possible and avoid them like they are the plague. If you’ve behaved unethically in the past, change your behavior to protect your future.

What’s More, on Video

(ethicalliteracy video)

Social Life Skills 101

Want the Keys to lifelong success for your children? The Key Class will teach them Social Life Skills 101!

Register your child for The Key Class today! Just four classes — on table manners, meet and greet, respect and making others at ease with them. For those seeking jobs, we’ll teach how to create résumés and cover letters!

Held from 6 to 8 p.m. every Thursday at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, 1535 Santa Barbara St.

Click here to register online, or contact John Daly at 805.452.2747
 or [email protected].

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook. Follow John Daly on Twitter: @johndalyjrClick here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.


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