Building an Ethical Workplace

Creating an ethical workplace is highly beneficial for employees, employers and your business as a whole. Learn what ethics in the workplace means, the advantages of workplace ethics and how to promote good business ethics at your company.


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What are workplace ethics?

Workplace ethics refer to a company’s culture and the values and moral principles that guide their actions both inside and outside of the organization. It also refers to how employees conduct themselves within the workplace. From a business standpoint, ethical workplaces model behavior and determine what actions are right and wrong. This refers to how a company conducts business, interacts with others internally and externally and how they treat suppliers and customers.

Workplace ethics can influence company morale, employee behavior, performance and other aspects related to the workplace environment. Because of this, it’s important to monitor ethics continuously to encourage more positive business practices and create a more ethical company environment.

Related: How to Motivate Your Employees


Benefits of an ethical workplace  

When moral principles and values drive an employee or employer’s behavior, it can positively influence the workplace environment in more ways than one. Here are some of those ways:


Build trusting relationships  

When employees display acts of good faith, it’s easier for them to trust and communicate openly with each other. For example, an employee who willingly helps one of their coworkers with a project can create a healthy professional relationship between the two, as well as foster a collaborative environment going forward. Additionally, trusted employees find it easier to receive help from coworkers and take on additional responsibilities from their supervisors.


Boost employee collaboration  

Without teamwork, any company will have a more difficult time finding success. When employees work well together and make positive contributions to their team, it can propel the entire team’s progress forward. Not only that, but working in a highly collaborative team can also motivate individual workers to achieve more in their role.

Related: Cultivating Positive Workplace Behavior


Make employees feel valued  

An ethical workplace creates trusting, collaborative relationships between employees, but it also strengthens the employee-employer relationship by helping workers feel valued — like their voice and opinions matter and make a difference. This helps reduce employee turnover and increase morale, plus help your company achieve its goals.


Promote individual well-being  

Workplace ethics can also add value to an employee’s personal life. Good-willed decisions cultivate positive emotions and overall peace of mind. In addition, workplace ethics can foster personal relationships along with professional ones, which leads to job satisfaction.


Strengthen company reputation  

When employers act according to their values and principles, it helps employees know they’re appreciated. This creates a positive reputation for employers and companies in the following ways:

  • Increases employee retainment
  • Motivates employees
  • Increases productivity
  • Boosts morale
  • Improves company culture


How to create an ethical workplace  

Company leaders and human resources departments should ensure workplace ethics remain a priority. Here are a few steps for fostering an ethical workplace:


1. Lead by example  

To create an ethical workplace, it’s important for companies to set the tone of the environment. Consider creating a code of ethics, rewarding employees with ethical behavior or hiring employees based on ethical behavior. Regarding the latter, hiring managers can do this by asking candidates interview questions related to integrity. All of this combined helps build a company based on positive values and morals.


2. Allow employees to report unethical behavior  

Giving your employees a way to communicate their observations can help you become more aware of unethical practices in the workplace, which can help you address and change unethical behavior before it becomes an issue. Not only that, but it builds trust between you and your team. Ensure the system you implement is easy to use and allows anonymous reporting.


3. Outline the consequences  

When employees are aware of the repercussions for poor behavior, it motivates them to avoid these practices. Make employees aware that if they exhibit unethical behavior, it can lead to various consequences such as written or verbal warnings, suspension or termination.

Related: Employee Warning Notice: A Template for Issuing a Warning


4. Promote teamwork  

Ensure your employees understand the importance of collaboration. Do this by communicating the importance of teamwork to your current employees and having hiring managers address it during the hiring process.

Related: Ethics Policies for Your Business: Do’s and Don’ts


Ethical workplace FAQs


What’s the difference between legality and ethics?

Ethics refers to moral philosophy, whereas legal matters relate to the law. Behavior can still be legal despite being unethical. For example, a marketing business can take advantage of an uneducated audience through its marketing tactics, and while this is technically legal, it may be considered unethical. In a similar sense, if you see someone walking down the street who needs help, it’s not illegal to walk right past them, but it is unethical. Though the law and ethics can work side-by-side, this isn’t always the case.


How are workplace ethics different from a work ethic?

Work ethic refers to your personal standards and moral code that leads to your hard work as an employee. Workplace ethics are the guiding principles that influence a company or employee’s workplace decisions.


What are some values that lead to ethical behavior?

Values provide a foundation for ethical behavior to grow. Here are some examples of this in action:

  • Self-control: When employees manage their emotions and reactions, it motivates them to do what is right for others and their company. For example, when faced with a large company decision, self-control can help you remain calm, collected and focused on providing your employees with a positive environment.
  • Kindness: Positive recognition and encouragement display an employee or an employer’s commitment to kindness. For example, if you publicly recognize an employee for their hard work during a meeting, this shows how much you value your employees.
  • Integrity: This principle motivates employees and employers to make fair decisions regardless of the consequences. For example, you may find yourself in a workplace conflict. Though you may face repercussions based on your problem-solving methods, you maintained your commitment to do the right thing.
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