Workplace ethics and behavior are a crucial part of employment, as both are aspects that can assist a company in its efforts to be profitable. In fact, ethics and behavior are just as important to most companies as performance as high morale and teamwork are two ingredients for success. Every business in every industry has certain guidelines to which its employees must adhere, and frequently outline such aspects in employee handbooks.


All companies specify what is acceptable behavior, and what is not, when hiring an employee. Many even summarize expected conduct in job descriptions or during the interview process. Behavior guidelines typically address topics, such as harassment, work attire and language. Workers who don’t follow codes of conduct may receive written and verbal warnings, and ultimately be fired.


A key component to workplace ethics and behavior is integrity, or being honest and doing the right thing at all times. For example, health care employees who work with mentally or physically challenged patients must possess a high degree of integrity, as those who manage and work primarily with money. Workers with integrity also avoid gossip and sneakiness while on the job.


Taking responsibility for your actions is another major factor when it comes to workplace ethics and behavior. That means showing up on scheduled workdays, as well as arriving on time and putting in an honest effort while on the job. Workers who exhibit accountability are honest when things go wrong, then work toward a resolution while remaining professional all the while.


A vital aspect of the workplace is working well with others. That includes everyone from peers to supervisors to customers. While not all employees will always like each other, they do need to set aside their personal or even work-related differences to reach a larger goal. In many instances, those who are not considered “team players” can face demotion or even termination. On the other hand, those who work well with others often can advance on that aspect alone, with teamwork sometimes even outweighing performance.


Ethical and behavioral guidelines in the workplace often place a high amount of importance on dedication. Although possessing the necessary skills is essential, a strong work ethic and positive attitude toward the job can carry you a long way. Plus, dedication is often viewed in the business world as “contagious,” meaning employees who give a strong effort can often inspire their co-workers to do the same.

Types of Ethical Practices Employees Adhere to in the Workplace

Employee ethics cover a diverse landscape of practices, some with legal implications, all of which the small business owner must be aware. Company policies and mission, employer demeanor and actions provide a working template for employees to use as they conduct their day-to-day business. Develop a template for an ethical workplace culture by defining what constitutes ethical practices. Business values and ethics policies guide employee ethical practices.

Justice Practices

The Golden Rule is a succinct guide for just practices in the workplace. Small business owners can collaborate with staff in defining what constitutes justice. Apply that definition to every sector and situation in a small business operation. Criteria for justice applies to all people and all situations, according to Charles D. Kerns in “Creating and Sustaining an Ethical Workplace Culture.” Employees put ethical guidance for justice on the job into practice by treating each other and all clients and customers fairly and equally. Anti-discrimination laws are examples of just employee practices.

Integrity Practices

Integrity requires the courage to do what is right despite popular opinion. Employees who practice integrity in the workplace support what is morally right and what the business represents to its staff and to its customer base. Members of a sales staff, for example, truthfully represent a product line or services. They keep their word to their clients because it is the right thing to do and because their word is the company’s word. Integrity requires consistent practice.

Confidentiality and Privacy Practices

Confidentiality and privacy laws and practices play a role in every business. A healthy work culture displays respect for employee privacy. Employees practice confidentiality by refraining from gossip about colleagues’ private issues. Employees of small healthcare businesses abide by privacy laws as a matter of daily operations.

Self-Control Practices

When challenging situations arise, employees who can control their emotions and actions exhibit ethical behavior in the workplace. Self-control prevents difficult situations from escalating into conflicts that disrupt workflow and threaten staff morale. Employees with self-control and discipline may strive to stay on top of their workload. When they avoid backlogs, they help their colleagues to maintain a steady work pace and they contribute to the overall productivity of the business.

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