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How to Deal With Unethical Situations at Work

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Unethical situations at work can wreak havoc upon a business. Whether it is an issue such as inappropriate behavior or stealing, unethical behavior causes dissension among employees and can threaten the integrity of an entire organization. Unethical situations have wide ranging ramifications from employee terminations to legal action. Whatever position you hold at work, it is imperative that you fully expose unethical situations in a timely and confidential manner.

Listen to every side of the issue. Making a hasty judgment before you have gathered all of the facts is often disastrous. Hear from all witnesses also as they may be able to testify about unethical behavior they saw or know of.

Inform superiors immediately of unethical situations you have witnessed if you are a subordinate employee. Unethical behavior has no place at work, and it is your responsibility to be forthcoming about disclosing unethical situations

Formulate a conspicuous company policy in writing that clearly defines and distinguishes between ethical and unethical behavior. Employees should have to thoroughly read the policy and sign it to commit to behaving ethically and reporting unethical behavior.

Keep reporting of unethical behavior strictly confidential. According to a 2007 LRN ethics study, millions of Americans have cited fear of retribution from colleagues for not reporting unethical behavior they have witnessed. If employees feel that their reporting of an unethical situation may jeopardize their own personal safety or career, they must know that they will not be put in harm's way for disclosing unethical behavior they have witnessed.

Terminate employees who engage in egregious unethical behavior. Stealing, embezzling money and incendiary gossip among other behaviors are legitimate grounds for dismissal. If employees are well aware of the consequences for potential behaviors, you will be justified in terminating their employment if they cross the line.


How you handle unethical situations at work will test your own values and propensity to uphold ethical standards.

According to an LRN ethics study, as of 2006 nearly 43 million people reported being distracted by unethical behavior, making it imperative that you successfully handle unethical situations.

If you have to terminate an employee, be professional and fire her in person.