For some, ethics are black and white. For others, there are all kinds of grey areas. Perhaps you live by a strict moral code. Or maybe you just go on gut instinct. However you define your ethical standards, it’s important to perform your job with integrity. This means basing your decisions and actions on a consistent framework of values and principles. Do you have a commitment to integrity? Do you act with high ethical standards in the workplace? What guides you in your decision-making process?
Take a few minutes to consider your ethics. Are you conducting yourself in a way that you can be proud of or are you slightly ethically challenged? Take this quiz and find out!
Read each situation and choose the answer that most closely represents what you would do. Write your answers down on a piece of paper.
1. You are concerned that a co-worker is lying on her time card. Even though it doesn’t impact you directly, it still makes you angry. You:
a) Sneak a peek at her confidential files to find out. After all, if she’s lying, you could save the company a lot of money by getting her fired.
b) Discuss your concerns with your supervisor and let her handle the situation.
c) Pretend you know nothing about it. It really isn’t your business anyway.
2. After making you promise not to tell anyone, a co-worker confides in you that she is being sexually harassed by a superior. You:
a) Keep your promise but approach the person who has been harassing her. You let him know that you won’t stand for this and if he doesn’t stop, she’ll sue.
b) Explain that you can’t keep your promise and report the issue to Human Resources to investigate.
c) Provide her with personal support and keep your promise.
3. Your supervisor asks you to sign off on a report that you don’t really understand. You:
a) Sign it. If your boss asks you, it must be fine.
b) Ask someone with more knowledge to help explain the information in the report. Once you are comfortable with it, you’ll be happy to sign off.
c) Tell your boss that you can’t sign it. If the document is valid, why can’t she sign it herself?
4. Your boyfriend is going on a business trip to London and he invites you to tag along. You really want to go but you don’t have the vacation hours. You:
a) Call in sick for a few days. They can’t argue with the flu.
b) Tell your supervisor about the opportunity and ask if you can take unpaid leave. If not, you’ll just wait until next time.
c) Tell your boss that there was a family emergency and you had to go to London. Hey, it’s half-true! This is the kind of opportunity doesn’t happen every day.
5. A potential client asks a question that, if you tell the truth, will make you lose the sale. You:
a) Tell a little white lie. You need this sale. There’s no way you’re letting it go now.
b) Explain the truth of the matter and offer solutions as best you can.
c) Dodge the issue and try to be vague in your answer. There’s no sense in wasting all the time you’ve already spent with this customer.
Review your answers.
If A’s appear most on your list:
It’s time to re-evaluate your ethics, my friend. I know you might think you’re doing all the right things, but having integrity sometimes means doing the difficult things. You need to think carefully when facing delicate situations. At times you may be avoiding the ethical solution because it’s not as easy as the alternative. And let’s face it: Even a white lie is still a lie. Stop trying to fool yourself. If you aren’t careful, you could end up in serious trouble. Having “flexible” ethics is not a respected value in the professional world and you could easily get taken advantage of. Watch out and shape up.
If B’s appear most on your list:
Congratulations! You appear to have high ethical standards. You know how to handle complicated situations and you’re not afraid of doing the right thing—no matter how difficult it is. You also seem to understand the value of professional integrity. Don’t let go of that! Others will respect you for it, and in the end you’ll have more success because of it.
If C’s appear most on your list:
Newsflash: Ignoring ethical dilemmas doesn’t make them go away! Stop trying to avoid the issues—you aren’t fooling anyone. The excuse that “it’s not your business” doesn’t work, especially with important matters that have can serious consequences. You have a responsibility to your company, your co-workers, and your superiors to confront issues in a professional, ethical way. Turning your head when others are acting inappropriately is another way of condoning the behavior.
You don’t have to shout your protest from the rooftops, but you do need to call attention to the problem. It isn’t up to you to fix it, but bringing a supervisor into the situation will help. And remember, there’s no justification for lying, especially in the workplace. Be careful with those little “oversights” and “fibs.” They may come back to haunt you.