The ethical behavior of an employee in a certain organization can be considered as an important factor to the success as well as the protection and safeguard of the organization’s assets and resources. Workplace ethics can be basically defined as the behavior that is generally accepted by cooperate communities. The Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics (Chadwick, 2012) defines professional workplace ethics as: “those bundles of intentional or behavioral requirements that members of a profession or other group must comply with to remain part of the group”. And De George (2010) has presented his view on ethics as follows “Ethics is a systematic attempt to make sense of our individual and social moral experience, in such a way as to determine rules that ought to govern human conduct, the values worth pursuing, and the character traits deserving development in life” (DeGeorge, 2010) So, if an employee is trustworthy, and committed to the betterment of his or her corporate entity then he or she can be considered an employee who has an ethical behavior. There are many noted instances where employees have been behaving and doing unethical acts, such as leakage of confidential information of the; organization, businesses, oncoming projects, as well as the misuse and abuse of company assets and property such as excessive use of company equipment for personal usage that’s unrelated to work. Throughout this essay I will point out some important details on why should an employee follow an ethical behavior in order secure his career and the for progress of the organization he works.
Misconduct of Organizational Resources and Assets.
An employee’s basic duty is to perform his or her job with contractual and moral obligations. Employees are morally obliged to obey the law, moral and civil law at work and at other times (Ermongkonchai, 2010) First, if we consider an employee who gets exposed engaging in an embezzlement or any unethical behavior, there are heaps of drawbacks that can affect whole career and the prospects and plans of that employee. It will leave black mark on the employees cooperate image. And, the industry will reject him as an unethical employee who’s unable adhere with standards of accepted behavior of a Working professional. Verschoor (2003) reported a study in the U.S. by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners that fraud cost as high as 6% of revenue, which projected to a value of 600 billion dollars and an average of 4,500 dollars per employee. The survey indicated 80% of fraudulent acts involve asset misappropriation. (Verschoor., 2003)
With that stated I’ll move on to some examples for instances where employees have shown unethical behavior at workplace. First few instances fall under the misuse of company resources and assets. Nowadays almost all the employees are provided with internet facilities for the use of work. In a country like Sri Lanka ISPs charge a massive amount for the internet connection packages. So, if employees misuse workplace’s internet connection for other personal interests that are unrelated to work will cause a rapid drain of the company’s data plan and will have to order more data that costs even higher than the usual. This can even ultimately lead into financial issues inside the company.
Nevertheless, a full ban on personal employment of the internet may have resentment or indeed strong protest from employees. The culture will bear an influence on the quantity and types of freedom which employees require. Thus, having internet user etiquette to suit its culture within the acceptable use policy can be deliberated (Lichtenstein & Swatman, 1997).
furthermore, there are various other incidences where employee misconduct can be seen. Information system misuse and other computer related crimes also can be tagged as unethical behaviors of employees. However, many definitions can be found in information system misuse literature. Downloading copyrighted material, child pornography, employee sabotage and misappropriation of confidential information are defined as misuse of employer technology by Totten (2004). These acts can be considered as extreme adverse ends of unethical behavior of employees. Furthermore, pornographic, gambling and gaming sites can bring on viruses and other malicious programs that would allow outsiders to harm private networks or make off with sensitive information compromising the network security (Zetter, 2007) The expansion in abuse of assets in the workplace is a developing worry to associations around the world. These unethical activities increase the organizational expenditure, reduce the employee productivity, damage company reputation and may also result in security issues and legal liabilities (Liyanagunawardena & Samarasinghe, 2018)
With that giving us a broader image of what are the unethical behaviors of an employee, now I’ll move on to two real-world examples for consequences of unethical acts as a working professional. One of recent incident is that when an Apple engineer who got fired due to letting his daughter to film a brand-new apple product inside the Apple campus where videography banned, and for leaking information about upcoming future projects of the company. This unethical act made him lose his job and made a black mark in his career. The following example is one of worst case scenarios of consequences of unethical behavior of a working professional, Sakvithi Ranasinghe, the Sri Lankan businessman who was allegedly involved in a financial fraud of nearly Rs.1060 million belongs to his clients who deposited their money into his number of illegal financial companies. After his scam was busted, he was arrested by the law enforcements. So, if we consider the consequences of this case, even if Sakvithi Ranasinghe manages to discharge of the prison, will he be able to start off again as a businessman? It is an obvious no, because he has completely tarnished his cooperate image and the whole cooperate world is aware of his scam and will no longer accept him as an employee of any sort of an organization. So not only his career also his dependents, Family will have to suffer the consequences of his unethical act. Following incidents are also another example where employees were penalized on unethical behavior. Work computer misuse has led to employee discipline and termination. Xerox Corp., The New York Times, and First Union Bank have announced termination of employees for inappropriate Internet use (Verespej, 2000). PNC Bank in New Jersey sacked two long time workers who did not comply with the bank’s formal policy against internal distribution of offensive material (Zetter 2007).
Not just the employee’s but also the employers cooperate image is also stained with these kinds of unethical acts. A recent study has indicated that the costs of ethical failures imposed on organizations are not limited to, government fines and penalties, but may include customer defections, loss of reputation, loss of employee morale, increased employee turnover, government cynicism and further regulation (Thomas, Schermerhorn, & Dienhart, 2004; Cone-Roper Poll, 2002)
All things considered, it is evident that consequences of unethical behaviors as a working professional can seriously even affect one’s whole career. With that thoroughly in mind as employees we should perform our duties by respectively serving clients interests, and then the organization’s interests and at last our own personal interests. At the same time maintaining a professional workplace etiquette.
Chadwick, R. (2012). Encyclopedia of applied ethics. San Diego: Academic Press.
Lichtenstein, S. & Swatman, P. (1997). Internet acceptable usage policy for organizations. Information Management & Computer Security. 5 (5). pp. 182-190.
DeGeorge, R. (2010). Business Ethics. 7th Ed. pearson.
Verschoor., C. (2003). New evidence of benefits from effective ethics systems. Strategic Finance. Online. pp. 20-21. Available from: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA101678997&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=fulltext&issn=1524833X&p=AONE&sw=w&authCount=1&isAnonymousEntry=true. Accessed: 9 January 2018.
Totten, J. (2004). The Misuse of Employer Technology by Employees to Commit Criminal Acts. In: 2004, Miami: Labor and Employment Law Technology Committee, p., Proceedings of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law Technology Committee Midyear Meeting. Available from: Accessed: 17 January 2018.
Liyanagunawardena, T. & Samarasinghe, K. (2018). Acceptable use policy and employee computer usage: case of Sri Lankan software development industry. In: 5th International Conference in Business Management (ICBM),. Online. 2018, p. 216. Available from: http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/32334/. Accessed: 14 January 2018.
Ermongkonchai, P. (2010). Understanding Reasons for Employee Unethical Conduct in Thai Organizations: A Qualitative Inquiry. Contemporary Management Research. 6 (2).
Verespej, M. (2000). Inappropriate Internet Surfing. Industry Week. Online. Available from:
Zetter, K. (2007). Is Your Boss Spying on You? It’s legal, it’s happening, and it can get you fired. Reader’s Digest. pp. 97-103. Available from: Accessed: 17 January 2018.