Some people would tell you that figuring out what is ethical and what isn’t is hard. I do not agree with that. There’s a simple “test” to determine whether something is ethical. If you think there is even a slight possibility that something is unethical then it almost certainly is.
If you’d be even the least bit embarrassed or concerned if someone found out you did it, then “it” is almost certainly unethical.
People who struggle with whether something is ethical or not are usually only trying to convince themselves that something that is clearly unethical is actually ethical. They tell themselves “it’s not that big of a deal.” They tell themselves “well, I know other people who do it” so I can too.
Here are two rules I do my very best to live by. First, always remember that if something isn’t ethical then it’s unethical. There is no in between. Two, you’re either ethical all the time or you’re not ethical. Period. There is no such thing as “business ethics” or “personal ethics,” ethics are ethics all the time.
Wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. Right is right even if no one is doing it. Living any other way only serves to cause you personal internal conflicts. Sneaking around, hoping no one finds out what you did or only being able to discuss it with other unethical people is no way to live.
Working with unethical people can be challenging and uncomfortable. Unfortunately it is sometimes unavoidable in professional or personal settings. Here are some thoughts on how to navigate such situations.
- Establish your personal and professional boundaries from the beginning. Make it clear that you won’t tolerate unethical behavior and ensure that you stick to your principles.
- It’s crucial to know your values and principles and not compromise them due to the influence of unethical individuals. Maintain your integrity and don’t engage in or support any unethical actions.
- Keep a record of any unethical behavior or actions you witness. This documentation can be useful in case you need to address the issue with higher authorities or HR at a later stage.
- When dealing with unethical people, be careful with your communication and actions. Avoid sharing sensitive information or getting involved in any unethical activities.
- If possible, find colleagues or friends who share your values and ethics. Having a support system can help you stay strong and provide guidance in handling difficult situations.
- If you witness unethical behavior, consider addressing it with the person involved. Choose a private setting and approach the topic calmly and objectively. Avoid being confrontational, as it may lead to a defensive reaction.
- If the unethical actions are affecting you or others in the workplace, it might be necessary to report the issue to a supervisor, manager, or HR department. Make sure to have your documentation ready to support your claims.
- Working with unethical people can be mentally draining. Focus on your personal and professional growth, and try not to let their behavior negatively impact your career or well-being.
- If the situation becomes unbearable and you see no positive change, consider whether it’s worth staying in that environment. Sometimes, it may be necessary to explore other job opportunities or find a way to distance yourself from unethical individuals.
- If the unethical behavior involves illegal activities, consider seeking legal advice to protect yourself and ensure you’re not inadvertently involved in any criminal actions.
Remember that every situation is unique. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s essential to trust your instincts and take appropriate action that aligns with your principles and personal circumstances. In extreme cases, consulting with an HR professional, an attorney, or an ethics advisor may be beneficial.
Above all, above absolutely everything else, never never ever sacrifice your core values just to get along with unethical people. They are most definitely not worth it and they never will be.