Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Factors that shape ethical behaviour at work

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Whether a person acts ethically at work is usually not a consequence of any one thing. For example, it’s not just the employee’s ethical tendencies since even ethical employees can have their actions influenced by organizational factors. So, the manager’s first task is to understand what shapes ethical behavior, and then to take concrete steps to ensure that employees make ethical choices. Let’s look first at the factors that shape ethical behavior. Then, in the following section, we turn to the steps the human resources manager can take or encourage ethical behavior.

Individual factors

Because people bring to their jobs their own ideas of what is morally right and wrong, the individual must shoulder much of the credit (or blame) for the ethical choices he or she makes. For example, one survey of CEOs explored their intention to engage (or to not engage) in two questionable business practices soliciting a competitor’s technological secrets and making payments to foreign government officials to secure business. The researchers concluded that personal predispositions more strongly affected decisions than did environmental pressures or organizational characteristics. Employers experience with honesty testing shows that some people are more inclined forward making the wrong ethical choice. How would you rate your own ethics? 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?

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.


Personal tendencies are also important because self-deception has a bigger influence in ethical choice than most people realize. For example, corrupt individuals tend not to view themselves as corrupt. They rationalize their unethical acts as being somehow okay. As the president of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners puts it people who have engaged in corrupt acts excuse their actions to themselves by viewing their crimes as non-criminal justified or part of a situation which they do not control.

Organizational factors

That happens all the time. Several ago WorldCom’s former chief financial officer (CFO) pleaded guilty to helping the firm’s former chairman mask WorldCom’s deteriorating financial situations. Among other things the government accused the CFO of instructing underlings to fraudulently book accounting entries, and of filing false statements with the SEC. Why should the CFO do such a thing? He took these actions knowing they were wrong, in a misguided attempt to preserve the company to allow it to withstand what he believed were temporary financial difficulties.

As in WorldCom’s case, the scary thing about unethical behavior a work is that it’s usually not driven just by personal interests. Table summarizes the results of one survey of the principal causes of ethical lapses, as reported by six levels of employees and managers, as you can see, being under the gun to meet scheduling pressures was the number one reported factor in causing ethical lapses for most of these employees meeting overly aggressive financial or business objectives and helping the company survive were the tow type other top causes. Advancing my own career or financial interests ranked toward the bottom of the list.

Thus (at least in this case) most ethical lapses seemed to yield to such pressures to help their companies. Guarding against such pressures is one way to head off ethical lapses.

Whistleblower policies can help reduce the occurrence of employer unethical behaviors. Whistleblower are individuals frequently employees who use procedural or legal channels to report incidents of unethical behavior to company ethics officers or to legal authorities While many employers fear whistleblowers others encourage them to come forward for instance by instituting ethics hotlines.

The Boss’s influence

The boss often has a determining effect on whether his or her employees do the ethical thing. According to one report, for instance the level of misconduct at work dropped dramatically when employees said their supervisors exhibited ethical behavior, Only 25% of employees who agreed that their supervisors, set a good example of ethical business behavior said they had observed misconduct in the last year compared with 72% of those who did not feel Here are examples of o supervisors knowingly (or unknowingly) lead subordinates astray:

1) Tell staffers to do whatever is necessary to achieve results
2) Overload top performers to ensure that work gets done.
3) Look the other way when wrong doing occurs.
4) Take credit for others work or shift blame.


  1. Outline the major factors that influences ethical behaviour.
  2. Explain about Individual factor.
  3. What do you understand by “ Boss Influence”?