Ethical Behavior is defined as : Acting in ways consistent with what society and individuals typically think are good values and involves demonstrating respect for key moral principles that include honesty, fairness, equality, dignity, diversity and individual rights. According to a survey done by Washington D.C. based Ethics Resource Center (ERC), roughly 120 million people walk into a workplace and half of those workers personally witness some form of ethical misconduct.
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When discussing business ethics, many people like to focus on only the good vs the bad, but forget to look at the basic causes of unethical behavior within the workplace and what draws employees to commit them.
Robert Hoyk, PhD says the root causes of unethical behavior lies in psychological traps that everyone falls prey to. Hoyk says that within any workplace there are psychological traps which are similar to that of fish traps. Fish traps are wired cages in which the entrance shaped like a funnel is designed to funnel the fish to swim into the trap in the same way an organization can drive an employee to move in a ethical or unethical direction. These traps can have a way of distorting perceptions of what is ethical and unethical and can often lead people to believe that their behavior is perfectly fine and they are not in the wrong. Hoyk states that empathy is considered to be the cornerstone of good ethics but in the wrong situation can actually overpower the sense of fairness and drive unethical behavior. There are three main traps that are most common within the workplace primary traps, personality traps, and defensive traps.
Primary traps are focused on obedience to authority, at a very young age people are taught to obey what their parents say, this is the base of your ethics the very beginning. Throughout time people are trained to respect authority and to do as they are ordered, when a supervisor instructs an employee to do something they usually comply without any question. The employee does not consider if the act may or may not be ethical. Leadership within the workplace plays a major role with ethics, if an employee sees unethical behavior from a supervisor, they are more likely to inherit that same unethical behavior for they see it as the norm. An employee within a restaurant was questioned on if he had seen any unethical behavior from his supervisor, he answered that within his first few months, he had noticed his general manager treating a certain server in a manner that was not normal. Later the employee found out that the general manager had been having an affair with the server,
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