Values are an indication of what we consider worthwhile. Values guide us towards activities that are rewarding or beneficial enough to justify the time to achieve them and the effort required. Values influence behaviour how we see the world and how we relate to others, how we behave and ultimately how others behave around us. The influence of our values can result in unethical behaviours.
The word ethics comes from the ancient Greek word “ethikos” – “arising from habit.” If ethical behaviour arises from habits then it is possible that unethical behavior in the workplace could be a result of personal ethics values and beliefs, and those personal ethics and values will be the driver of our behaviours despite corporate codes of conduct.
Most leaders conform to corporate standards of behaviour and behave ethically when things are going their way, however, personal value systems are installed at an early age and they become our default operating system, many leaders therefore may default to unethical behaviours when their needs or goals are compromised or threatened. It is far more difficult to act reasonably and respectfully when the things that we value, our core needs are not being met.
There is a huge difference between personal and corporate values. Personal values are expressions of personal preferences and needs, whilst corporate values are expressions organisational norms. Leaders must take care not to let their personal goals and needs overcome corporate values, standards, or principles.
A single person rarely is responsible for unethical scandals in organisations. Poor ethical behaviours are usually the result of interaction among several individuals who have rationalized their values. Will you have the courage to choose right from wrong when there is pressure to compromise or rationalize?
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