Perhaps one of the most important actions you can take as a business owner is the establishment of a written code of ethics. This may help prevent the occurrence of many forms of unethical workplace behavior. Unethical behavior ranges from stealing office supplies to defrauding a business out of large sums of money.
The 2005 National Business Ethics Study listed employer intimidation as the most common form of ethical violation in the workplace. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, intimidation, also known as bullying, typically involves a pattern of verbal abuse directed at any employee by an employer. The employers attempts to assert his power by humiliating the employee.
Ethical violations may occur regarding workplace safety. The 2005 National Business Ethics Study indicated that 16 percent of the surveyed employees observed violations of workplace safety regulations. Not following established safety procedures can jeopardize the health, or even the lives of other employees. Even something as simple as not wearing a hard hat or other safety gear can result in worker injury, which impacts the employer as far as lost productivity and possible payment of a workers compensation claim.
Time theft can be a more subtle form of unethical behavior. According to the International Foundation for Protection Officers, common forms of time theft involve altering time cards or time sheets to cover up late arrivals or early departures, or even standing around the water cooler instead of working. Time theft also includes viewing non-work-related websites, or spending time sending emails to friends.
Ethics violations can also involve stealing items, including office supplies and computer equipment. Employees who have access to company finances can steal cash, or use “creative accounting” as a means to embezzle money. Workers may also steal merchandise from a business. The International Foundation for Protection Officers points out that product displays are a frequent target of employee theft.
Misconduct in the workplace can take on many forms. Common varieties include sexual harassment, or discriminatory practices, such as age, race or gender bias. The 2005 National Business Ethics Study indicated that 12 percent of employees reported occurrences of discrimination in the workplace, while 9 percent reported occurrences of sexual harassment.