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Unethical behavior in business runs the gamut, from simple victimless crimes to huge travesties

that can hurt large numbers of people. Whether it is stealing a pen, padding an expense report,
lying to avoid a penalty or emitting toxic fumes into the air, unethical behavior cannot be
condoned by a company. A strict ethics policy is the cornerstone for any business that wants to
maintain a good reputation.
Theft at work comes in a variety of forms, and oftentimes employees do not view it
as unethical behavior, believing no one gets hurt by the action. Employees
take home office supplies, use business computers for personal tasks, pad expense
accounts and abuse sick time or allotted personal days. Unethical behavior also
includes having another employee punch a time card, or not punching out for lunch
hours or other nonapproved time off. Though these may seem like minor infractions,
they eventually have an impact on the bottom line of the company, which then
hurts all employees. Theft also affects employee morale and is disheartening to
those who choose to behave ethically.

Vendor Relationships
Businesses that buy from and sell products to other businesses are sometimes
subject to unethical behavior. The practice of accepting gifts from a vendor in
exchange for increased purchasing is not only unethical, it may have legal
repercussions. The same can be said for offering a customer kickbacks to increase
his purchasing habits. Ethics policies often contain guidelines for giving or accepting
gifts with vendors or other business associates, such as a cap on the value of the
gift. Other businesses strictly forbid giving gifts or any other item with monetary
value. This is a safeguard to prevent any perception of unethical behavior.
Bending the Rules
Bending the rules in a business situation is often the result of a psychological
stimulus. If an employee is asked to perform an unethical task by a supervisor or
manager, he may do it because his allegiance to authority is greater than his need
to abide by the rules. Turning the other way to avoid trouble for another employee is
still unethical, even though the motivation may be empathetic. For example,
knowing that a coworker is having issues outside work justifies watching him leave
early each day without reporting it. Withholding information that can change an
outcome also falls under the umbrella of unethical behavior, even if the perpetrator
believes he is doing what is in the best interest of the business. For example, if a
poor earnings report is withheld until after a stockholder meeting.

Unethical behavior by companies, such as releasing pollutants into the air, can
affect cities, towns, waterways and masses of people. Though accidents can occur,
the release of harmful toxins into the environment due to lax safety standards,
improper maintenance of equipment or other preventable reasons is unethical. If a
business willingly continues production of a product knowing inherent
environmental risks exist, it can certainly be categorized as unethical behavior.
Wages and Working Conditions
Other unethical practices include not paying workers a fair wage, employing
children under the legal working age and unsafe or unsanitary working conditions.
Any practices that are not in compliance with fair labor standards and federal
working guidelines fall into this category.

Defining what encompasses ethics is a matter that engenders significant thought and debate.
It's not defined only by the law or religion; it's not about a person's beliefs. Instead, a person
who behaves ethically is following a standard of right and wrong when it comes to society,
fairness and rights. The ethical person who follows these standards employs honesty,
compassion and loyalty, according to Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied
Ethics website. When co-workers behave unethically in the workplace, often the best remedy is
to set a high standard of ethical behavior yourself.
Step 1
Practice what you preach. The best way to influence others is to behave ethically
yourself. That involves treating others with fairness and respect, and following the
standard of behavior your workplace demands. This can be as simple as getting to
work on time, not fudging your hours and delivering your work in a prompt and
high-quality manner. You'll also need to demonstrate integrity, caring and
teamwork. When others can rely on you to behave honestly, you're well on your way
to influencing others' behavior.
Step 2
Identify a short-term solution in your workplace. For example, if your place of
business has a high rate of employee theft because employees are allowed to
rummage through inventory unseen, perhaps it's time to consider putting a lock on
the storage room or installing a security camera. If you opt to install a security
camera, consider alerting your staff ahead of time.

Step 3
Identify the cause of the unethical behavior. What is the behavior's root cause? Are
employees stealing ideas or not sharing credit? They may be feeling the need for
more feedback from you -- especially if you're stingy with praise. People need to feel
appreciated and part of a dynamic environment. Forcing staff to jockey for your
attention is demoralizing. It also causes resentment.
Step 4
Establish procedures that encourage ethical behavior. Consider implementing preemployment personality tests that determine a candidate's capacity for
wrongdoing, and be sure your business's plan clearly states that unethical means do
not justify the ends. Discourage cheating and idea-stealing by instituting a zerotolerance policy for those who break the rules ... and walk the talk by implementing
the policy's resulting action.
Step 5
Praise good ethics publicly. Thank employees whose behavior is a model you'd like
others to follow. Provide an incentive, if necessary, such as a financial bonus or a
comp day.