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Factors that Affect Ethical Behavior in the Workplace

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Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo

Jennifer Lombardo received both her undergraduate degree and MBA in marketing from Rowan University. She spent ten years in consumer marketing for companies such as Nielsen Marketing Research, The Dial Corporation and Mattel Toys. She is currently an adjunct professor of marketing at Rowan University and a social media marketing consultant.

Ethical behavior in the workplace is affected by several factors, both internal and external. Understand the ways individual factors, social factors, and situational opportunities influence ethical behavior in a business setting. Updated: 10/19/2021

Ethical Behavior

Have you ever taken credit for something someone else did at work? For example, your boss stops by your office to tell you that your work on the marketing report was excellent, and he is rewarding you with a promotion. The problem is that most of the report was based on the hard work of your co-worker. Should you tell your boss that the co-worker really deserves the promotion? What makes you confess to your boss?

Usually, the answer is your business ethics. Business ethics refers to the moral principles or values that generally govern the conduct of an individual or group. In this lesson, you will learn about the different factors that affect ethical behavior in the workplace. Ethical behavior is acting in ways that are consistent with how the business world views moral principles and values. Business ethics determine employees' everyday conduct. Let's take a look at some of the factors that affect your ethical behavior in the workplace. How would you answer when faced with an ethical dilemma?

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  • 0:01 Ethical Behavior
  • 1:05 Individual Factors
  • 3:28 Social Factors
  • 4:35 Situational Opportunities
  • 5:29 Lesson Summary
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Individual Factors

Many individual factors affect a person's ethical behavior at work, such as knowledge, values, personal goals, morals and personality. The more information that you have about a subject, the better chance you will make an informed, ethical decision.

For example, what if you had to decide whether to approve building a new company store? What if you did not have the knowledge that the store would disturb an endangered species nest? Without the appropriate knowledge, you could be choosing an unethical path.

Values are an individual's judgment or standard of behavior. They are another individual factor that affects ethical behavior. To some people, acting in an improper way is just a part of doing business. Would you feel that it is ethical to make up lies about your competitor just to win a contract? Some people's standard of behavior will feel that lying for a business financial win is not unethical.

Morals are another individual characteristic that can affect an individual's ethics. Morals are the rules people develop as a result of cultural norms and values and are, traditionally, what employees learn from their childhood, culture, education, religion, etc. They are usually described as good or bad behavior. Would you have good morals if you pushed a product on a customer that you knew was not going to help solve a problem?

Many ethical work situations will also be affected by a person's goals. Which characteristics do you feel are worthy to aspire to? Is financial gain ranked ahead of good character or integrity? If your personal goals are about acquiring wealth no matter what the consequence, then you might act unethical in the future.

Lastly, an employee's personality plays an important factor in determining ethical behavior. Do you enjoy risk or do you prefer the safe route? Individuals who prefer to take risks tend to have a higher chance of unethical conduct at work. For example, if you are willing to risk dumping chemicals into a nearby water supply to launch a profitable drug, then your riskiness could end up creating health issues in local citizens for the sake of financial gain.

Social Factors

Cultural norms, the Internet and friends and family are three social factors that can affect ethical behavior. Different cultures have norms that vary from place to place in the business world. For example, you might have to face a request for a bribe in order to conduct business in certain countries in South America. This might be unethical to you but considered an acceptable norm in their workplace.

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A purchasing agent routinely takes kickbacks from suppliers because he seeks to enrich himself as much as possible. He bases his decision to do this on _____.

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