There are certain things which are considered invaluable in most organizations. Ethical Behavior is one of them. Most organizations require their employees to sign a code of conduct that lays down norms and behavior that is expected of them. Apart from ethical behaviour, well refined English speaking skills are also valued in a workplace.
A lot of companies mandate online or classroom training to make employees aware of their code of conduct. This document or training program essentially lists out what the organization considers acceptable as workplace behavior, and what it doesn’t. Sexual harassment, theft, bribery – these are all the big, obvious entries on the list. But ethical behavior at work doesn’t refer only to non-criminal behavior. Ethical behavior is in the small choices we make every day – to do the right thing even when no one might notice.
Here are two workplace stories that you might relate to – perhaps you’ve encountered something similar. And if you haven’t, perhaps they will give you something to think about!
Don’t Compromise on Your Integrity
‘Everyday Needs’ is a chain of large grocery stores operating in some of the biggest cities of the world. I have recently started working as a Sales Associate there. As part of my job, I stock products on shelves, help with inventory management, maintain records of damaged inventory, and help customers locate items on the shop floor.
Since this is my first job, I am learning new things every day. Today, I learnt something unexpected. My friend, Ian, and I had spent about three hours moving boxes of merchandise from the supply vans to our basement storage room. It was very hot and we were quite tired. We sat down to take a break while we were waiting for another supply van to arrive. Ian opened the chiller that is kept in the storage room to stock dairy products and took out two bottles of cold coffee. He offered one to me. I was surprised. I asked him if this was allowed. “Not really,” he said, “but it’s so hot and there are so many bottles. We can drink one or two, no one will notice. The missing bottles are always marked as damaged or broken. Don’t worry.”
I realized that I had access to a lot of merchandise because of this job. ‘Everyday Needs’ has about 30,000 unique products in their inventory! Since I was handling stocking of most of these items, it was easy for me to help myself to some of the small things I needed without anyone noticing. So the choice was mine, really. I could consider this a professional privilege and follow the example that Ian was setting. Or I could be honest and tell myself that if I hadn’t paid for the items, they weren’t mine.
“What are you thinking about? Here – take the cold coffee,” said Ian. I just smiled and told him I didn’t want any.
Don’t Take Advantage of Your Professional Liberties
David worked as a Sales Associate at a well-known FMCG company in London. He was a young man, probably in his late twenties. This was his second job and he was good at it. He was sure that sales was the right field for him since he was good at connecting with people, had proficient English speaking skills, and loved the thrill that came with closing a deal!
People in the office liked David, he had a good boss who appreciated him and his peers respected him too. So, he was surprised when one day, he received a warning letter from the HR department of his company. The letter informed him that he had violated the company policy on use of office resources. Worried, he set up a meeting with the Head of HR in his office. She informed him that as part of a routine audit, they had examined the taxi bills that he had submitted and the amounts seemed higher than they should have been.
As part of his job, David had to go to various client offices for which he was authorized to charge the company. However, he had a habit of combining his official visits with his other visits such as shopping or meeting relatives when he had the time. When submitting bills to his company for reimbursement, he had not deducted the additional taxi fare that he had paid for these non-official visits.
When David realized his mistake, he sent a written apology to the HR department. He was worried that he would lose his job because of this incident, as many companies do not accept any violation of policy. He was lucky to receive a warning and a second chance…he makes sure to double check every bill he submits now!
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You will face many such instances at your workplace when you will have to choose between what is easy and what is right. What choices will you make?