unethical situation and examples
[Unsplash.com] Two workers with ethical behaviors relating with each other

How to deal With an Unethical Situation and examples in the Workplace

How do you deal with an unethical situation and examples? It’s true that business owners and top management of companies face a lot of challenges. But at the top of this list  is how they deal with unethical situations and behaviors in their workplaces. 

But the question is, how do workers imbibe ethical behaviors without having a good knowledge of the work ethics that is peculiar to their profession, organization, or that serve as a set of a general industry standard?

In this article, we shall explore the following:

  • What is Work ethics
  • Unethical behaviors at work 
  • Ethical behavior in the workplace
  • Example of work ethics in the workplace
  • Benefits of good work ethics in the workplace
  • How do you deal with an unethical situation and examples? 


What is Work ethics?

Work ethics is a body of guidelines that constitutes well-articulated values, philosophy, and moral standards created to regulate internal and external relationships of staff in an organization. 

In other words, work ethics provide clarity as to how employees should relate with their colleagues, management, and customers (or clients) of the company. 

In addition, work ethics are the code of conduct of a company created to keep workers in check– from excesses and selfish tendencies. 

The reason is that these excesses can negatively affect the interpersonal relationships among employees, between the workers and management, and essentially between employees and customers.

Examples of work ethics in the workplace include punctuality, effective communication, professionalism, diligence and commitment, integrity, accountability, responsibility, etc. 

However, the observable behaviors in a workplace are either ethical behaviors or unethical behaviors.


Unethical Behavior at work 

Many companies have gone bankrupt with devalued goodwill and a massive decline in their customers. 

And very often, these are the consequences of unethical behavior(s) and situations of staff or a group of people. While some are from employees, others are from the employer— and the management team. 

Thus, the following are examples of unethical behavior in a workplace:

  • Telling lies
  • Use of foul and abusive languages
  • Violence
  • Misusing working time
  • Theft/ Embezzlement
  • Undue pressure
  • Sexual harassments
  • Dishonoring commitments 
  • Unconducive environment 


Telling Lies

Nobody loves it when they are being lied to by others. So don’t expect a customer to be happy when a firm’s employee serves a lie to her.  

Likewise, you shouldn’t expect an employer to be excited when an employee dishes out a lie to the detriment of the company’s objectives, growth, and progress. 

Yet there are unethical situations whereby employees lie to have their way before their employer. Perhaps an employee calls his employer (or team lead or manager) claiming to be sick so that he can stay off duty. But in reality, he has a job interview to attend. For which his employer may not give him the allowance if he officially asks for permission. 

However, while the party lying may feel justified, it only kills trust when discovered. And, of course, it hurts the organization’s productivity level in the long run. 

Use of Foul and Abusive languages

Some companies have lost tons of money as legal fines because of the unprofessionalism of their employees. In particular, how they relate to their clients. The reason managers need to look into this unethical behavior. 

Let’s even streamline it to interpersonal communication among workers. For many organizations, it is a sad reality. Many of their staff use abusive, foul, and offensive choice of words as the best way they can express their grievances and sore displeasure about a happening or situation. 


Violence is usually the outcome of the unethical behavior outlined above. For goodness sake, who feels happy being insulted? You can place a bet that nobody loves. 

Therefore, foul and abusive language only brings out retaliation, physical combat, or violence amongst employees.

And that can lead to the loss of lives and a shortfall in productivity. But not only that, the complete shutdown of a business, especially when the violence escalates and gains the attention of the public and press.

Misusing Working time

Most companies have working time and break time— for employees to cool off before returning to work. But some workers engage in the unethical behavior of using their working time to do something else personal— when they should be working. 

They could be cyberloafing or interacting on social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, or Instagram. And the effect of this is a slow and poor working performance. 

Theft/ Embezzlement

A wise man once said that “A thief remains innocent until he has the opportunity to steal. That’s true. And sadly, it is the case for many people at their workplaces anytime they are being entrusted with something of value, especially money. 

They thereby steal their company’s money. For example, imagine a teller in a bank who decides to steal money from his company. All because of his access to customers’ money. 

That is why employers these days are careful when recruiting people into their teams. They do not want to only hire people with employable skills but who are of good personality. 

Who would want to hire a greedy fellow? A person who will sell their company if he has the privilege to do that. Of course, no one.

Undue Pressure

It is okay for employers to expect their staff to deliver value. At least, that is what they paid for at the end of the month. But it is believed that it is unethical behavior for employers to put their staff under undue pressure by giving them unrealistic goals and targets.

Just imagine that you work as a content creator for a particular business organization, and your boss gives you a call via phone or to her office. And she then gives you a project that should take about two weeks to finish and insists you finish up in five days. 

You sure don’t want to imagine that, but you know that is unethical behavior on the part of the business manager.

Sexual Harassments

Sadly, many employees are victims of sexual harassment, either from a colleague or a boss threatening to sack them. And usually, the fear of being queried, not being promoted, or receiving a sack letter makes them give in to this kind of pressure and unethical behavior from their superiors to have sexual relationships with them.

Yes, it happens— and can happen to any gender, male or female. 

Some of these victims are job applicants who are desperate for a job. Thus, they release their bodies on the strength of the promise they receive either from a chief member of the recruiting team or the business owner to get the job they have applied for. 

But very frankly, this may lead to serious court actions against the company when a pile of substantial evidence gets filed against it and its employees.  

Dishonoring Commitments

When employers demand the loyalty of their employees, they also must be committed to their commitment (and promises) to staff. Because when the management of an organization does not stay committed to delivering its obligations to its workers, they cause disloyalty in workers. 

And when that happens, workers may take on negligence in carrying out their duties, as they look for every opportunity to get back at their employer, especially when they feel cheated.

Say, for example, your employer asks all the employees at your place of work to do overtime and proposes to pay everybody $30/hour. That was an agreement.

But assuming after the overtime, your employer decides to pay all of you at $15/hour. What would your reaction be? 

How would you (and your colleagues) feel? Of course, you’ll feel unhappy.

Now you see that when your employer dishonors their commitment(s), whether written or oral can be considered unethical behavior. 

Unconducive Environment 

How is an unconducive environment unethical behavior? You’re probably asking.

 An unconducive environment may not appear as a behavior, yet it is an unethical situation. Yes, one triggered by the negligence or greed of an employer. 

Depending on the industry your company falls in, there are specifications and standards that companies must meet before they are deemed fit or ready for business. It could be the physical layout of the office, the number of staff, the safety of the environment for workers, or as the case may be. 

In other words, when a company falls short of these clear and industry standards, there are always penalties to pay in the eyes of the law. 


Ethical behavior in the workplace

The issue of work ethics is not one any company would want to joke about. That’s because the management team of a business organization must strive to encourage positive and good work ethics in a work environment.

That said, the following are some of the ethical work behaviors: 


As said earlier, respect is a critical work ethic or ethical principle in any workplace. Workers with this understanding interact with their colleagues, employers, and those outside their organization with respect. Remember, respect is reciprocal. 

Effective Communication

Communication is key. And essentially, both employees and employers should be able to communicate and express themselves to one another, through the right channel and at the right time. 

Meanwhile, while effective communication is a skill employers are looking for, it is an ethical behavior that staff who appreciate work ethics imbibe. 


Beyond certification, a professional knows his job demands and descriptions and what his organization expects from him. For example, the accountant of a firm knows that his company expects him to keep a clean and sound financial record of their financial position. 

Therefore, he applies principles of his profession in a very professional way whether he is relating to his employees or people outside– who may be banks or other institutions that have a consequential effect on the company’s financial position and its representation. 


Dedication is the state of being diligent and committed to a course. Hence, showing dedication to work is an ethical behavior every employee should put on. As someone dedicated to your work, you would not be slothful in your business, and you will be committed to giving value in return for the pay you get from your employer or client. 


Integrity is an ethical code itself, which is the ability to be steadfast without compromising. Warren Buffet once commented, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” 

Indeed, integrity shows consistency in one’s nature, especially one who’s not greedy and self-centered. Such a person’s YES is a yes come rain or shine, and he is ready to give his best to the goal and objective of his organization. 


Being accountable is ethical behavior. But then, it’s a hallmark of being responsible. Have you ever kept something valuable in the custody of someone but only to return and find out that the item has depreciated? If yes, how did you feel? 

Well, you must have felt pain. That is the same way employees who are not accountable cause pain to their company or employer. 

Assuming you work in a company whose marketing department got money to execute a particular project—that eventually didn’t record much success. But when called upon to account for the money, the project leader could barely give a detailed run down. 

That’s a display of the unethical behavior of being accountable. And most times, lack of accountability is a sign of irresponsibility.

Time Management

You must have heard the saying that time is money, and you will agree time management is an ethical trait and behavior that anyone who wants to achieve substantial results must display. 

The reason is that the extent and quality of results you achieve have a corresponding relationship with how well you can manage and utilize time. 


Benefits of Good Work Ethics in the Workplace

When you answer the question of how you deal with an unethical situation and examples, there usually comes with some benefits. 

And thus, one cannot overemphasize the importance of good work ethics in a workplace. Some of the benefits are:

  • Foster orderliness and organization. A workplace with an established code of conduct for workers to follow stimulates orderliness. And therefore, give no room for disorderliness.
  • There will be cordial relationships in a company whereby staff treat and relate to one another with respect. And this will not give room for resentment and violence.
  • Peak performance. Good ethical behaviors in a workplace help the company achieve peak performance since both employees and management have the right attitude towards work.
  • Teamwork spirit. A company with a defined policy and staff that have positive work ethics will embrace the attitude of working as a team. That is because they understand that together everyone achieves more (TEAM).
  • It does not give room for cyberloafing. In simple terms, workers find it difficult to do stuff online that is not work-related. 
  • Anomalies such as theft, embezzlement, and other corrupt practices are brought to the barest minimum since the workers’ attitudes are in check.

How do you deal with an unethical situation and examples? 

Despite the importance of ethical behaviors in a workplace, many managers still find it quite daunting to encourage good work ethics in and amongst their workers. In any case, the following are ways to deal with unethical behaviors and situations in a workplace: 

#1. Recruit people of Character

Undoubtedly, it’s good for employers to hire individuals with the necessary skills and technical know-how. But beyond these, every employer of labor should look out for the values and character of people when hiring.

For that reason, the best way to solve a problem is to be careful not to allow it to show up in the first instance. Business owners or managers may hire intelligent and skillful people who lack qualities like integrity, dedication, etc. 

Unfortunately, this set of people will cause the company pain in the long run because of greed, lack of good manners, or other unethical behavior. 

#2. Write up a well-defined policy

Every nation has a written document that regulates the affairs of the people and all groups in it. Likewise, all corporate and business organizations must have an established code of conduct in a written document. 

And this document must be legally binding, stating things that the management team expects from each staff, group, or department of the company. And basically, it must draw a clear line between ethical and unethical behaviors for employees so that they will be forearmed to act in the best ethical way.

Also, this document should state the consequence(s) for negligence or not being dutiful. Through this, everyone, including the management team, knows when falling short of expectations. 

#3. Use appropriate reinforcement

At this point, managers are to apply fairness in their reward system and compensate workers. Those who are diligent and dedicated to achieving success at and with their roles should get rewarded favorably.

When that happens, you say reinforcement is positive and can come as bonuses, an increase in salaries, or perhaps, promotion. 

But on the other hand, staff who put up unethical conduct or behaviors must be held accountable and disciplined accordingly. It is called negative reinforcement, and it is usually to deter others from doing or acting in that same way.

#4. Check and balances

Business owners must plan the structure of their organizations so that everyone is made accountable. In other words, management should ensure checks and balances to curb unethical situations by not allowing some persons to become so immune to sanctions. But that is what not being accountable to anyone can result in.

#5. Organize seminars 

To maintain an ethical work environment, business owners, from time to time, must organize seminars and workshops to sensitize and remind both new and old staff about its code of conduct. And if possible, the management team can invite specialists in work ethics to help keep employees abreast with the development of new work policies in their industry.

#6. Take the lead

While Leadership is the ability to influence others, people don’t get influenced by just talking alone. They want to see first and then follow what they have seen. 

That is the reason business owners or managers should lead by example. For example, if the management team wants to deal with unethical behavior such as lateness to work, supervisors, team leads, or managers should be able to model this before others. And not the other way round.


Ethical culture in a corporate setting is something every business owner or manager desires. But frankly, it takes more than a desire to deal with unethical behaviors in a workplace. It takes pragmatic steps, as we have looked at above.

If you have something to say about what you just learned, do well to use the comment section.


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