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Whether you're looking for a job or working toward a promotion, character counts. When employers look at the skills and traits that are essential for a position, character -- an individual's ethical strength -- is non-negotiable. An honest employee who does the right thing because it's the right thing to do fosters a culture of compliance within an organization and enhances its reputation as an ethical company.
Ethical standards can affect company profits. Unethical employees do more than risk just their own jobs -- they may put their employers at risk of prosecution for violations of anti-bribery and anti-discrimination laws. The bad behavior of one rogue employee who offers a bribe to a foreign official can trigger consequences that endure long after the bad apple has been let go. The supervisor who jokes about a new employee's sex appeal exposes the employer to an equal employment opportunity investigation and civil litigation, forcing the company to devote resources to settlements and legal fees.
The workplace is a network of people who must rely on and trust each other. Trustworthy employees treat their co-workers with fairness and respect. They pull their own weight and pitch in to help meet deadlines. An organization that values character in the workplace attracts and retains employees with good work ethics, and who take pride in working for a company that insists on honesty and integrity. High employee morale helps to create and sustain a positive, productive work environment.
Character is important when working with customers, vendors and other outsiders who come into contact with a company's employees. Business processes flow smoothly when the "links" in the supply chain can rely on each other without wondering whether they're being lied to or cheated. They have to be able to trust that an employee's word is golden. An employee with good moral character doesn't give in to the temptation to tell people what they want to hear instead of telling them the truth. It's no wonder that ethical companies, over the long run, fare better financially than unethical ones.
Perhaps the most compelling reason why character is important in the workplace is that it is also vitally important outside the workplace. An employer has limited visibility into an employee's off-duty behavior, but an individual who purposefully lives every aspect of his life with integrity exudes a sense of confidence and self-assurance wherever he goes. An employee who is guided by a strong moral compass exemplifies leadership skills and stands out among his peers, signaling his potential to all who know him.
Marilyn Lindblad practices law on the west coast of the United States. She has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her work has appeared on various websites. Lindblad received her Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School.