Acting Ethically at Work

Questions about ethics and your job should start even before you head in for the interview process. Do some research into the company. I like to read through local (and national) news to find out information about both any potential companies or organizations I may work for AND some of the higher ups that I could be working for. You may find that there are, in fact, situations that the company has been or could potentially be in, that you don’t agree with. You may also discover known corporate policies that you don’t agree with—especially if you will be required to enforce those policies. This is an easy and simple way to find out beforehand if a job might not be right for you.

In an ideal situation, if nothing comes up during your research phase, it would be great to learn about potential ethical dilemmas in the interview process, where it would be easy for you to walk away. Ask about company policies and decisions if you are curious as to the motivation behind them. Again, this can help you determine if the company is a good fit for you.

Sometimes nothing comes up or it seems like it will be fine. And then it turns out that things are not fine. It could be acertain manager who does things differently, and in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Or perhaps it is the work environment itself that makes you feel like you are constantly going against your better instincts. You start to dread going to work and you feel uncomfortable doing your job. You start to wonder how you can live with yourself, making the decisions you are making. Your first instinct might be simply to quit and find a different job, one that aligns better with your own feelings of integrity.

However, that isn’t always an option. And I don’t judge you if that is your predicament. In that case, your best bet is to talk to someone in Human Resources. Find out if it is really the policy or a specific employee’s interpretation of a policy. Maybe there is an abuse of power going on that has not been identified. Perhaps additional training can help put things on a more ethical playing field, or maybe people are unaware of what the policy actually IS. Human Resources should be able to direct you to a handbook, employee manual, or other documentation to ease your mind. They should also be able to handle any disciplinary actions or retraining,hopefully keeping you out of it.

If the situation does not improve, you can find out if there is a higher authority you can report to and see if the situation is fixable from there. But chances are, if it is part of the company’s corporate culture, you will likely be best served by firing up your resume and looking for something that aligns more with your moral character.

The bottom line is that you know what is right and wrong. I like to operate on the belief that people don’t do wrong things intentionally, but asituation or lack of knowledge dictates their actions. In those instances, retraining or something similar may help. But if you are hating your job and feeling terrible about your part in what is going on, you can stand up and try to change things—or leave and find a job that will put your soul at peace. I support your decision either way!