Business Ethics

Ethics & Morals for employees

Employees often confront situations at the workplace where they have to make moral or ethical decisions. Many of these decisions have to be made depending on moral obligations, while some other morally supportable decisions may require courage and performed regardless of the generally accepted norms. There are some dominant subjects with regard to workplace ethics. They are:

  • Obligations to one’s firm
  • Abusing one’s position
  • Bribery
  • Obligations to third parties
  • Whistleblowing or letting out organizations private information
  • Self-interest of the Employees

Obligation to one’s firm

Employees are hired to perform the company’s tasks. The employees have an obligation to follow the company rules and work for their financial gain. The employers often establish various conditions to employment which is to be followed by the employees. These can include respectful behaviors in the offices, dress code etc.

Most people consider it a moral obligations of the employee to stay loyal to their organization. Employees are for sure obligated to do the tasks assigned to them by their employer to them, but it is often debated if they are obligated to work for the company beyond what is assigned to them. The employees are not bound to have any kind of loyalty to their employers. But loyalty to the company is often considered a good thing on moral grounds and it is possible that the loyalty is rewarded buy the company through pay-raises, promotions, and good recommendations and other gains to the employees.

Employees and the company can have a conflicting interests. Some of these conflicts are minor and can include conditions or situations at workplace. However, some conflicts may be serious and can lead to disloyalty from the employees. Employees must try to avoid conflicts of interest by not involving themselves in activities that are disloyal.

Abusing one’s position

Abusing ones official position for private or personal gains is a strong violation of workplace rules and ethics. Such abuse is a result of disloyalty.

Insider trading is one example. It is when an employee have access to company’s private information, which if let out can cause serious issues such as influencing the stock prices. For example, employees might come to know their company is going to be bankrupt and is selling stocks. People who buy these stocks will be deceived. So the employees might advise their near ones to sell the stocks or not to buy the stocks.

Companies can have trade secrets which are not to be share, and disloyal employees might trade these secret with competing organizations for profit which is highly unethical.

It is often argued that trade secrets should be protected by law due to the following reasons:

  • Trade secrets are intellectual property.
  • It is wrong to steal trade secrets.
  • Stealing them is a violation of the confidentiality of the company.


Bribery is a process aimed at making someone act against their duties. It can become a very serious issue when it can cause harm to people. Another form of bribery is kickbacks which involves a person using personal position to benefit another party. Bribing is a very common occurrence in both small scale and large scale organizations.

Companies often tend to give gifts and entertainment to employees to encourage a particular behavior. This can lead to a conflict of interest. It is not morally wrong to provide entertainment if it is done according to ethical standards. The morality and ethics of gifting can be judged from the following considerations:

  • Gifts of huge prices tend to be more likely a bribe.
  • Gift can be used for various reasons including to encourage, advertisement, or bribe.
  • The occasion of a gift is important. Gift given at special occasion is different from gifts given at non-special occasions and an open gifting is more ethical than a private gift.
  • If the position of the person gifted is such that he can use his position to help the person gifting, it is most likely a bribe.
  • Gifts as “tips” for a waiter or waitress (which is normal) is different than that to a CEO; it is clearly unethical.

Obligations to Third Parties and Whistleblowing

A person has a moral obligation to let others know about dangerous or deceptive business practices of the organization. But it is important for the employees to compare and judge their duties and the importance of their obligation to themselves and others. It is morally preferable to let others know of illegal business activities even though it is not a moral obligation to do so.

Whistleblowing is the act letting the public know about immoral or illegal actions or activities of one’s organization or employer. We can judge a whistleblowing with the following:

  • The motive of the employee should be ethical
  • The whistleblower should first consider less problematic means of solving the issue like consulting the superior authorities
  • The whistleblower should have enough evidence to support his claim of the unethical activities
  • There should be significant reasons and effects behind the company’s illegal activities

Self-interest of the Employees

A person is often faced with situations where he questions himself if he is obligated to save the interests of others by revealing misconducts to the management or by alerting the public of immoral acts of companies. In such situations, it is important to think rationally regarding the morality of our actions. We should ask ourselves if we are blindly doing what we are asked, without considering the impact on others. Morality is when we are able to consider the interests of everyone who may be affected by the decisions we make. We have social and personal obligations depending on the unique factors of the situation.