Friday, July 1, 2011

Dealing with Unethical Situations at Work

Most likely you’ve heard how unethical Wall Street lending practices have been tied to the recent recession. And before that, huge companies like Enron were making news for their deceptive accounting methods. While you may never experience this level of unethical behavior in the workplace, at some point you could be faced with a questionable situation. For example, you may discover an employee sharing company-privileged information with outsiders, manipulating expense reports, or falsifying company data. To help you navigate an unethical workplace situation, consider the following tips.

Think Before You Act

Not all situations are easy to sort out; in fact, you may find yourself second guessing whether a co-worker’s actions or requests are actually unethical. For example, you may ask yourself, “Why be concerned? Doesn’t everyone take company office supplies home?” If you’re not sure whether a particular behavior is unethical, here’s a good gauge: If you think company management or your peers wouldn’t approve, you’re probably right. Ask a trusted co-worker, human resource manager, or your own manager if you need another opinion. The key is to think before you act.

Review Company Policies

Many larger companies have a published code of ethics, core values, or policies intended to guide employee behavior and practices. If you work for a company that doesn’t have a formal document, the human resource department should provide a knowledgeable resource.

Your Professional Reputation Could Be at Stake

When it comes to unethical work practices, whether you are directly or indirectly involved, you can end up in major trouble—or even terminated. This includes being aware of something unethical and not reporting it. Even if you manage to avoid disciplinary action, in almost all cases you will have damaged your professional reputation and maybe even your chances for career advancement.

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