The workplace can be a contentious space, and it is likely that during your working life you will come across some form of unethical behavior. Whether it be being asked to do something you don’t agree with by your boss, or noticing a co-worker doing something they shouldn’t, it can be difficult to know how to handle such situations.
In this post, we take a look at 5 examples of unethical behavior in the workplace and give you some tips on how to handle them.
1. Abuse of leadership
In many workplaces, the culture is influenced by the attitudes and behavior of those in management positions. In fact, research has shown that managers are responsible for 60% of misconduct that occurs in the workplace.
Abuse of power can take on many manifestations. You may be asked to do something that you are uncomfortable with, may witness or experience bullying from a manager or notice that figures or reports are being manipulated.
An abuse of leadership is not only a form of unethical behavior. It can also have a toxic effect on both the working culture and, potentially, the success of the organization. However, many workers can be reluctant to report such unethical behavior for fear of the repercussions.
If you’re witnessing a case of abuse of leadership in your workplace, consider speaking to other co-workers about their experiences, begin to gather evidence of the managers’ unethical behavior, and check out your company policies so that you can be specific about which company protocols they are breaking.
The next step is reporting them to someone who works above them or, if this seems too drastic, you can also talk to your HR department about the best way to escalate the situation.
2. Discrimination and Harassment
Experiencing or witnessing cases of discrimination and harassment in the workplace is not uncommon. When discrimination or harassment occurs in the workplace based on ethnicity, race, disability, gender or age, this is not only a case of unethical behavior. Moreover, it is a legal issue also.
It can be easy to turn a blind eye to such behavior, but allowing it to continue not only contributes to a toxic culture in the workplace. It can also create an ‘othering’ mentality that excludes and persecutes specific groups of people.
If you have witnessed discrimination or harassment in the workplace, it is important to seek support and help so that this unethical behavior does not continue. Look at your company’s policies around this as these should guide you as to how to report cases of discrimination and harassment. If you feel your organization is not handling your complaint effectively, consider seeking legal advice.
3. Misusing Time
No employee is perfect and it is impossible to be productive all of the time. However, when the boundaries are pushed and you witness an employee misusing company time for other purposes regularly, this can be an ethical conundrum.
Perhaps they have another freelance business on the side and are using their time in the office to pursue this. Or, even worse, they have asked you to cover up for them when they’re spending time out of the workplace when they shouldn’t be.
Handling this type of unethical behavior in the workplace is not easy, however, if left unchecked, then it is likely to escalate. Consider speaking with your co-worker and let them know about your concerns. It’s likely that once they’re aware that their behavior has been noted, they will be more conscious of following the rules.
4. Theft by Employees
When it comes to unethical behavior in the workplace, employee theft is high up there as one of the most common occurrences. We’re not talking about stealing a few pens from the stationery cupboard here. This is fiddling with expenses, inaccurately recording sales or even fraud. According to a report in 2015, the amount stolen from US businesses by employees in one year was a whopping $50 billion.
If you’re suspicious of one of your co-workers, make sure you have your facts straight before you consider reporting them. Accusing someone of stealing is a big deal so ensure you have evidence of their activities before you take it up with HR or a manager.
5. Internet Misuse
Another common unethical practice in the workplace is the misuse of the company’s internet. While it may be tempting to check your Facebook at work, this can lead to potentially hours of wasted time. In fact, a survey by salary.com found that at least 64% of employees use their company computer to look at websites that are unrelated to their work.
It is hard to work a whole day without having some breaks, so some companies will tolerate some downtime to check your social media. However, if you feel one of your co-workers is taking advantage of this and their work is suffering because of it, consider dropping a few hints to let them know.
Workplace politics are a minefield and it can be a tricky environment to navigate at times. Witnessing or being at the receiving end of unethical behavior is tough. While it can be tempting to brush it under the carpet, it is important to report and deal with such behavior so that your own work happiness isn’t affected.
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