23 Ethical & Unethical Behavior Examples in Workplace (2023)

Workplace ethics are a dynamic set of values that vary with people and their definition of a workplace. For some, it is a physical office they go to every day, while others, their home office.

It doesn’t matter whether you work from home or commute to work everyday, workplace ethic is required to build a successful career. Organizations are known to embrace ethical practices and behaviors to increase productivity and uphold integrity—while setting a penalty for workers who default workplace ethics.

Following a predefined workplace ethic is a little harder for freelancers and business owners because there is usually no disciplinary committee to punish them for defaulting. It is however evident that for them to not lose clients, they need to imbibe workplace ethics into themselves.

What is Workplace Ethics?

Workplace ethics are the set of values, moral principles, and standards that need to be followed by both employers and employees in the workplace. It is the set of rules and regulations that need to be followed by all staff of the workplace.

These ethics are implemented by employers to foster both employee-employee relationship and employee-customer relationships. An organization may decide to put these ethics into writing or not—they are however meant to be followed.

There exist some general workplace ethics that do not need to be defined by the employer, but are common ethical behaviors employees need to exhibit. In the same vein, some organization-specific ethics may need to be defined in a company handbook.

23 Ethical & Unethical Behavior Examples in Workplace (1)

Examples of Ethical Behaviors in The Workplace

Examples of ethical behaviors in the workplace includes; obeying the company’s rules, effective communication, taking responsibility, accountability, professionalism, trust and mutual respect for your colleagues at work. These examples of ethical behaviors ensures maximum productivity output at work. And could be pivotal for career growth.

  • Obey The Company’s Rules & Regulation

At the start of an employee contract, companies may need the employee to sign various documents, including the company rules and regulation agreement form. Also, the employee may be given a handbook that may serve as a guide.

Some common rules are tardiness, inappropriate dressing, and language, etc. Due to the excitement of getting a new job, some employees do not properly read these rules and may end up deferring them in the future.

Therefore, it is important that new employees properly read these rules & regulations in other not to defer them.

  • Communicate Effectively

Effective communication is very important to avoid misunderstandings when dealing with issues in the workplace. Communicating effectively may mean different things to people at different points in time.

Let us consider the hypothetical situation of an employee trying to relay information to a French-speaking customer. The best way to communicate effectively with the customer is to have an employee who can speak French relay the information.

Effective communication may also have an employee breaking one of the rules and regulations of the company without getting penalized for it. An employee reaching out to HR that they will be coming in late due to some unforeseen circumstances may be spared for coming late if the situation is properly communicated.

  • Develop Professional Relationships

Good professional relationships are not only a thing that fosters teamwork among employees, but also help with individual career development for employees. Developing professional relationships with coworkers or other professionals outside the workplace will also directly or indirectly improve productivity.

Professional relationships between low-level and high-level employees will make it easier for ideas to be shared and knowledge to be passed to junior employees. That way, the company can confidently have an intern work on a tough project to meet a pending deadline due to the guidance from older employees.

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Salespeople, for one, need to build external professional relationships with professionals from other organizations—especially those who are potential clients. These relationships will help create a contact person in another organization in case they need to sell a product to them.

  • Take Responsibility

It is important for employees to always take responsibility for decisions made both individually and in a team. This is, in fact, a leadership trait that every employee who is looking to take up a managerial position in the future should exhibit.

23 Ethical & Unethical Behavior Examples in Workplace (2)

Understandably, employees may want to save their job and are therefore scared of taking responsibility for a particular event. However, they shouldn’t let this fear take them.out of the team.

For example, the communications team came up with a marketing strategy for the company and it failed. The team members are to jointly take responsibility for this failure, not individuals coming out that they weren’t part of the decision making process.

If the strategy has gone the other way round, they wouldn’t have said the same.

  • Professionalism/Standards

There are professional standards that everything an employee does in the workplace. The use of informal words in a formal workplace is highly unprofessional.

These standards should be held high and applied to every part of an employee’s activity in the workplace. This should include the way they speak, kind of work they deliver and their relationship with coworkers and customers.

  • Be Accountable

Accountability is also a very good trait of an employee. One of the things that may short change a talented and responsible is the lack of accountability.

Lack of accountability may result in your boss thinking you have an “I don’t care attitude” to the company’s project or worst take you as a liar and may lead to job loss in the long run. For example, at the beginning of each year, a certain amount of money is allocated to each department.

The manager is meant to oversee how this money is spent. If at the end of the year, the manager can not make an account of how the money was spent, he may then be suspected of stealing company funds.

  • Uphold Trust

An employee should not do anything that may make his or her employee withdraw trust. As an employee of a company, your employee trusts you to get work done perfectly on time.

Things like missing deadlines regularly or delivering work that needs to be revised over and over again will deny you a promotion. It may even leave the employer not giving you tasks to complete in the future—a nightmare for freelancers.

  • Show Initiative without being told

Is the company running behind deadline and you feel you can stay a few extra hours after work to finish up? Do it.

You are a freelance designer and your client wants a particular poster designed but doesn’t have a copywriter to write the content. If you can write the contents, do so. Don’t delay a client’s work because of a few contents.

  • Respect Your Colleagues

It doesn’t matter whether you are dealing with the intern, a junior, janitor, etc. they should all be treated with respect. As a manager, treating your team members with respect will help improve their productivity.

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Giving constructive criticism and saying kind words to them even when they are not able to deliver perfectly will help them strive to do better in the future.

  • Work Smarter

Don’t just work hard, work smarter. The reason why you see an employee promoted to the post of manager after just 2 years and a hardworking employee who has been with the company for 10 years failed to get a promotion is smart work.

Assume that these 2 employees are data scientists who collect data and analyze them. A smarter employee will use the Formplus data collection tool to collect data and receive real-time data analytics, while a hard-working employee will print paper-based forms and do the hard work of sharing it to respondents.

Unethical Workplace Behaviors

  • Lies

Lying is a trait that is detested in and outside the workplace. It kills trust, affects relationships and may even put people in trouble.

There are different situations where employees lie in the workplace—with just one lie opening the floor for many others. It could be a sales manager lying about the number of clients they were able to get in a month or an employee calling in sick just to attend another job interview.

A lot of employees start lying from their CV, by adding experiences they didn’t acquire, and the skills they don’t have. Employees need to understand that lying about work may eventually get them in trouble and needs to stop before they lose their job.

However, we notice that employees lie due to fear of their employer—an employee will call in sick to go for interviews because companies frown against employees interviewing at another company. HR should put up a more friendly culture that will encourage people to progress in their careers taking up other jobs and even support them throughout the process.

  • Taking Credit for Others Hard Work

It is very common for managers to take credit for their team member’s hard work when reporting to the management. A team member may have brought an idea that helped the sales team improve their sales by 200%.

However, when giving a report, the manager doesn’t mention the team member’s name but claims the idea as his. Employees need to reduce the use of “I”, but embrace the use of ” We”.

By taking credit for another person’s work, you will be denying the person a promotion, bonus or commendation for a job well done. This will discourage the person from sharing ideas that will benefit the company in the future.

  • Verbal Harassment/Abuse

Employees need to stay away from using foul language on coworkers in and out of the workplace. This is very important when dealing with customers.

Customers are known to get angry and may result in verbal abuse due to a bad product or service. They may even get insult you when they are at fault.

As a customer care representative, salesperson or any other employee, it is beth important that you don’t use abusive words on customers no matter how provoked.

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  • Violence

Similar to verbal harassment, employees should not be violent when dealing with coworkers and customers. Customers may likely provoke you, but it is better to keep shut and walk away rather than turn violent.

  • Non-Office Related Work

A lot of employees have side hustles which they use to supplement salaries. This is very good and only very few companies are against employees working to make money outside work hours.

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However, some employees still do non-office related work during office hours. Employees who have side hustles should try doing them on weekends or employing other people to handle some of the business logistics to avoid eating into office hours to get the work done.

  • Extended Breaks

Companies give lunch breaks to employees and people take advantage of these breaks to do other things outside office work like, go for interviews, meet with friends or even work on their side hustles. They are free to do whatever they want these lunch breaks.

Employees, however, take advantage of these lunch breaks and extend them beyond time.

  • Theft/Embezzlement

Some employees are known for diverting company funds into their bank accounts—padding project quotations, invoices, etc. to deceive the company on how much was spent on particular projects.

This act is detrimental to the company because employees who steal sometimes replace quality products with counterfeits which are cheaper but causes damage in the future.

  • Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an offense that is not limited to the workplace alone. An employee accused of sexual harassment will not only face consequences in the workplace but also tried at a court of law.

Many companies have a zero-tolerance rate for sexual harassment in and outside the workplace. This may tarnish the company’s reputation and the only way to curb is to make an example of defaulters.

  • Corrupt Practices

Some common causes of corruption can be seen during the employment process of an organization. They invite so many people to send their CVs and come for interviews but only people with the same political affiliation with them get the job.

This is also common with companies that ask for contractors to bid for a project but the employees will only give them to their friends who may not even bid at all.

Get started with our workplace harassment form template to receive feedback from employees

Management/Employers Unethical Behaviors

Workplace ethics is not for employees alone. Employers are also bound to workplace ethics and may also be tried for unethical behavior.

  • Sex for Job/Promotion

It is common for managers, employers and major decision-makers to use their position in the workplace to influence the hiring decision in exchange for sex.

  • Late Night Out/Unpaid Overtime

Some employers take advantage of desperate job seekers and the competitive job market to use employees’ leisure time as they wish. They do so with the mentality that they are doing employees a favor by employing them, not knowing that the favor is mutual.

Employees who are scared of queries or job loss are not able to protest the infringement into their private time by the employer.

  • Verbal Harassment

It is common among employers to verbally harass employees when they make little mistakes. This will reduce employee morale and productivity.

Employers should always say kind words to their employees.

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  • Undue Pressure

Deadlines are a great way to make sure the work gets done on time. However, when employees are placed under undue pressure, they end up trading quality for on-time delivery.

An example of undue pressure will be giving an employee a 1-day deadline for a project that would normally take a week.

  • Nepotism

This is a common type of corruption that happens in the workplace. An employee who has been working hard for years while influencing company growth may get sidelined for a promotion because of another employee who is a family friend, family, or friend of the employer. Things like this are what reduce employee morale or even push talented employees to dropping a resignation.

  • Unfriendly Work Environment

One of the things that can mar productivity is an unfriendly working environment. This may come as a combination of abusive bosses, lack of commendation, nepotism, etc. An unfriendly environment is an environment that combines various unethical behaviors into one.

  • Unrealistic Expectations

Creatives usually have it worse when it comes to having unrealistic expectations from employees.

Advantages and Implications of Workplace Ethics

  1. It can stimulate positive employee behavior and create a positive ambiance in the workplace
  2. Ensures management guides and mentors their employees in a healthy environment
  3. A workplace with good ethics usually strengthens the bond employees have with their superior
  4. It boosts productivity through employee performance and job satisfaction which in turn increases company growth.
  5. Bad workplace ethics can cause a strain in the relationship with company stakeholders
  6. When it leaks (which it most likely will) poor behavior can be recorded and propelled into unsavory headlines online. This can lead to reputational damage to the brand name.

How to Solve Unethical Issues at the Workplace

1. Have Rules

Organizations need to have predefined rules and regulations regarding workplace ethics. These rules and regulations should be given to new employees together with their employment contracts.

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Also having the rules written at strategic places at the workplace will also help remind people about the rules. People tend to unconsciously imbibe things they see every day.

2. Accept Feedback/Complaint

Make it easy for employees to send feedback or complaint in case of harassment, abuse, or any other unethical activities going on in the workplace.

With tools like Formplus, you can create online forms to receive complaints on workplace harassment or any other unethical behaviors

3. List Consequences for Unethical Behaviors

Consequences for unethical behaviors should also be placed alongside the rules at strategic places in the organization. That way, if anyone wants to ignore the rules despite seeing them, the fear of getting punished will stop him or her from going ahead.

4. Swift Justice/Disciplinary Action

Some Companies often cover up issues of rape, sexual harassment, etc. when the perpetrator is a high-ranking member of the organization. Things like this should not be accommodated.

Irrespective of who breaks the rule, there should be swift disciplinary action by the organization.

Create Workplace Complaint Forms for Free

(Video) ETHICS


What is ethical and unethical behavior in a workplace? ›

Ethical behavior, simply put, is doing the right thing. Unethical behavior is the reverse. In the workplace, unethical behavior certainly includes any deeds that violate the law, such as theft or violence.

How do you identify unethical behavior in the workplace? ›

The ERC reported that employees most often observe the following five unethical behaviors in the workplace: 1) employees misusing company time, 2) supervisors abusing subordinates, 3) employees stealing from their employers, 4) employees lying to their employers, and 5) employees violating company internet policies.

What are 3 examples of inappropriate behavior in the workplace? ›

Disruptive work behavior: It can include yelling, tantrums, bullying, displaying the need for excessive control, disregard of duty, and insubordination.

What are the 10 good work ethics? ›

The ten work ethic traits: appearance, attendance, attitude, character, communication, cooperation, organizational skills, productivity, respect and teamwork are defined as essential for student success and are listed below.

What are the causes of unethical behavior in the workplace explain? ›

Some issues are more likely to lead to unethical choices. Employees are more likely to act unethically when they don't see their action clearly causing harm — for example, when the victim is far away or the damage is delayed. Unethical choices also occur when an employee feels that peers will not condemn their actions.

What are 4 ethical behaviors? ›

Ethical behavior includes honesty, fairness, integrity and understanding. There are several ways to encourage an ethical workplace culture, including establishing a company-wide code of ethics.

What are six examples of ethical behavior? ›

Examples of ethical behaviors in the workplace includes; obeying the company's rules, effective communication, taking responsibility, accountability, professionalism, trust and mutual respect for your colleagues at work.

What are ethics give 3 examples? ›

Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty.

What are the 7 types of ethics? ›

Types of ethics
  • Supernaturalism.
  • Subjectivism.
  • Consequentialism.
  • Intuitionism.
  • Emotivism.
  • Duty-based ethics.
  • Virtue ethics.
  • Situation ethics.

What is unethical behavior in an organization? ›

“Unethical pro-organizational behavior” (hereafter, “UPB”) such as this is defined as “actions that are intended to promote the effective functioning of the organization or its members (e.g., leaders) and violate core societal values, norms, laws, or standards of proper conduct” (Umphress et al., 2010, p.

What are work ethics in the workplace? ›

Work ethic is a set of standards of behavior and beliefs regarding what is and isn't acceptable to do at work. Work ethic can be strong (good) or poor (bad), it depends on personal views of employees, their motivation, and overall company culture.

What is the unethical Behaviour? ›

Unethical behavior is when a person, a professional, or an industry does anything that is considered unacceptable because they are against the social norms. Individuals, businesses, professions, and politicians may all engage in unethical behavior.

What are 5 examples of violence in the workplace? ›

Rumours, swearing, verbal abuse, harassment, pranks, arguments, property damage, vandalism, sabotage, pushing, theft, physical assaults, psychological trauma, anger-related incidents, rape, arson and murder are all examples of workplace violence.

What are 5 examples of unsafe conditions? ›

Unsafe Conditions
  • Defective tools, equipment or supplies.
  • Inadequate supports or guards.
  • Congestion in the workplace.
  • Inadequate warning systems.
  • Fire and explosion hazards.
  • Poor housekeeping.
  • Hazardous atmospheric conditions.
1 Feb 2013

What is toxic behavior in the workplace? ›

Toxic employees are typically overconfident, have self-centered attitudes, and are rule breakers. They tend not to cooperate with others or respect their co-workers because they're always looking out for number one, which can make them difficult people in the workplace environment where teamwork is needed most often.

What are 5 examples of positive work ethic habits? ›

7 Characteristics of a Good Work Ethic
  • Punctuality. Whoever said “90% of success is showing up,” had a point. ...
  • Focus. It's never been harder to find your focus than this year. ...
  • Dedication. Focus for one day and you're on the right track. ...
  • Professionalism. ...
  • A Desire to Improve. ...
  • Initiative. ...
  • Productivity.
2 Dec 2020

What are the 8 principles of ethics? ›

This analysis focuses on whether and how the statements in these eight codes specify core moral norms (Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence, and Justice), core behavioral norms (Veracity, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Fidelity), and other norms that are empirically derived from the code statements.

What are the 6 basic ethical principles? ›

The principles are beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, justice; truth-telling and promise-keeping.

What are good ethical behaviors? ›

Ethical behaviour is characterized by honesty, fairness and equity in interpersonal, professional and academic relationships and in research and scholarly activities. Ethical behaviour respects the dignity, diversity and rights of individuals and groups of people.

What are the 4 types of ethics in business ethics? ›

Types of Business Ethics
  • Personal responsibility. Each person who works for a business, whether on the executive level or the entry-level, will be expected to show personal responsibility. ...
  • Corporate responsibility. ...
  • Loyalty. ...
  • Respect. ...
  • Trustworthiness. ...
  • Fairness. ...
  • Community and Environmental Responsibility.

What makes a company ethical or unethical? ›

The first thing that makes an ethical company is one that does not retaliate against employees who voice their concerns. Employees fear retaliation to some extent. And if they are reporting an ethical concern about their manager or some other higher-up, well just imagine the fear is doubled.

What are your ethics examples? ›

Some code of ethics examples include integrity, selflessness, honesty, loyalty, equality, fairness, empathy, respect, and self-respect.

Why is ethics important in the workplace? ›

Oentoro comments, “Ethics in the workplace is key to a positive work environment and fosters a culture of trust and respect. Employees who feel they can trust their employers and colleagues are more likely to be productive and motivated. A strong ethical culture can also help prevent and resolve workplace conflict.

What are some unethical Behaviour of students? ›

  • Obtaining work or information from someone else and submitting it under one's own name.
  • Using unauthorized notes, or study aids, or information from another student or student's paper on an examination.
  • Communicating answers with another person during an exam.
21 Oct 2022

What are the four common causes of unethical behavior? ›

Why Do Employees Make Unethical Decisions?
  • Pressure to Succeed. Employees may choose to act unethically based on unrealistic expectations to succeed. ...
  • Employees Are Afraid to Speak Up. ...
  • Lack of Training. ...
  • There's No Policy for Reporting. ...
  • Managers Setting Bad Examples.

What are the 3 factors of unethical behavior? ›

3 Reasons for Unethical Behaviour. The researchers describe the different factors as “bad apples” (individual factors), “bad cases” (issue-specific factors) and “bad barrels” (environmental factors).

What is the most common cause of unethical acts? ›

Psychological traps are the root causes of unethical behavior. Because they are psychological in nature, some of these traps distort perceptions of right and wrong so that one actually believes his or her unethical behavior is right.

What are 2 unethical business practices? ›

Defamation of a competitor, misappropriation of their trade secrets, and trade mark infringement – all these fall under unfair competition which gives a wrong impression to the consumers about the competitor and its products.

What unethical behavior means? ›

: not conforming to a high moral standard : morally wrong : not ethical. illegal and unethical business practices.

What are 2 examples of unethical testing practices? ›

Unethical practices include:

Providing students with questions from the test to review before taking the test. Changing instruction or reviewing specific concepts because those concepts appear on the test. Rewording or clarifying questions, or using inflection or gestures to help students answer.

What are the 4 basic types of ethical problems? ›

Unethical accounting, harassment, health and safety, technology, privacy, social media, and discrimination are the five primary types of ethical issues in the workplace.

What affects ethical and unethical Behaviour? ›

Factors influencing ethical behaviour? School/ Education Desire to preserve/ enhance status Loyalty to Family/ Friends/ Company Company Ethos Professional Ethics … Cultural/ societal values Media influences/ coverage Legal constraints (Government) Enforcement (Legal/ Professional/ Religious) … …

How do you solve unethical issues in the workplace? ›

How to Promote Ethical Behavior in the Workplace:
  1. Establish straightforward guidelines. You should develop an easily understood yet comprehensive code of conduct that outlines company expectations for ethical behavior at work. ...
  2. Promote knowledge. ...
  3. Provide tools. ...
  4. Be proactive. ...
  5. Employ data monitoring. ...
  6. Foster ethical behavior.

How does unethical behavior affect employees? ›

Unethical behaviour can lower employee productivity by interfering with their morale. Employees who witness unethical behaviour lose motivation to work and can result in absenteeism or worse, they may commit similar unethical behaviours perceiving this to be normal.

What are the 5 biggest ethical issues facing businesses? ›

The 5 Biggest Ethical Issues Facing Businesses
  • Unethical Accounting. “Cooking the books” and otherwise conducting unethical accounting practices is a serious problem, especially in publicly traded companies. ...
  • Social Media Ethics. ...
  • Harassment and Discrimination. ...
  • Health and Safety. ...
  • Technology/Privacy.


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