What Are Ethics at Work? (Plus 13 Examples of Work Ethics)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 December 2022

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Ethics are important both in personal lives and professional positions. They help ensure that individuals have equal treatment, positive work environments and productive teams. Learning how to answer the questions "What are ethics at work?" may help you develop plans to maintain the ethical standards of your teams. In this article, we discuss the various types of ethics and list 13 examples of ethics in the workplace.

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What are ethics at work?

Ethics at work are the ideas and norms that govern the conduct of employees, employers and organisations. It is important that you are aware of them so that you can respect them when you are in a workplace or working with an organisation. There are different types of ethical standards for different types of work. For example, there are ethics unique to medicine where doctors must act in the best interest of their patients.

What are the types of ethics at work?

Here are examples of some different types of ethics you may encounter in various work environments:

  • Corporate ethics: Corporate ethics are the set of standards and principles that guide an individual or an organisation. They help employees of corporations to act in ways that benefit their organisation and promote positive values.

  • Technological ethics: Technological ethics are the set of standards and principles that guide engineers, scientists, researchers or any other type of professional operating in the field of technology. They help guide professionals to create new technologies that are safe and reliable while ensuring that they use them in a way to protect the public's safety.

  • Public sector ethics: Public sector ethics are the set of standards and principles that govern government employees. They help government employees to act in ways that benefit public interests.

  • Environmental ethics: Environmental ethics are a set of ethical norms concerning the moral treatment of the natural environment.

Related: Understanding Business Ethics in the Workplace

13 examples of ethics at work

When answering the question "What are ethics at work?" and learning how to maintain them for yourself, reviewing examples can provide helpful insight. Here is a list of ethics that are important to follow when at work, with descriptions of each:

1. Honesty

Honesty in a work-related setting is important in order to build trust and respect between colleagues and leaders. The goal is to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at succeeding based on merit rather than favouritism or bias. It also ensures that each individual knows their role in the company so they can contribute accordingly. For example, when you are in a meeting with your manager, you need to ensure that they have all the facts they need when making an important decision.

Related: What Is Integrity? (Definition and Examples)

2. Fairness

Fairness is another important ethical standard at work because it ensures that individuals treat others fairly based on their merits. It also means that everyone has the same opportunity for development, promotions and salary increases based on their contribution to the organisation. For example, when you are leading a meeting with your team members, you can ensure that everyone has the chance to contribute their opinion rather than letting a few individuals dominate the discussion.

Related: How to Build Good Workplace Relationships in 8 Steps

3. Commitment

Commitment is an ethical standard because it ensures that each individual puts their best effort into their job. Commitment doesn't necessarily equate to high performance, but it ensures that everyone within a work environment is trying their best to complete their assigned tasks. For example, when you set goals for a project, you can ensure that the team is working towards the same goals and putting in their best efforts to accomplish them.

Related: Tips To Demonstrate Work Ethic

4. Punctuality

Punctuality is an important ethical standard at work because it shows commitment as well as respect for others by not keeping them waiting. For example, you can arrive early for meetings, show up on time at work, keep break times short and be available when needed for help or questions.

Related: 10 Expectations of Employees (With Tips to Fulfil Them)

5. Respect

Respect is an important ethical standard at work because it ensures that each individual shows consideration to their colleagues through their words, actions and manners. It means showing regard for leaders by being attentive during meetings, listening to their instructions or words of wisdom and treating them respectfully. For example, when you are in a meeting with your manager, it is important that you listen and consider what they have to say and show them the respect they deserve.

6. Accountability

Accountability is an important example of ethics at work as it ensures that individuals take responsibility for their contributions to the organisation. Organisations can accomplish this through observation or feedback so that supervisors can determine how well each individual is doing with their job. It also ensures that individuals receive promotions based on their abilities. For example, when you are working on a task, it is important that you take responsibility for your actions, including any failures or omissions.

7. Productivity

Productivity is a common ethical standard in a work environment because it ensures that each individual is performing their work in a timely manner. Organisations accomplish this by setting goals and working to achieve those goals. It means using your time effectively to complete work and deliver it when it is due, as well as doing it to the expected standard or better. For example, when you are delegating work to a team member, ensure they understand what you expect of them and when they need to complete the work, as well as that they have the tools and resources that they need to do it.

Related: 17 Tips to Help You Work Smart and Improve Productivity

8. Safety

Safety is another important ethical standard at work because it ensures that everyone has a safe work environment at all times. It ensures that everyone has a schedule that works for them and receives proper notifications about emergency situations. It also means employees keep themselves safe at work and consider the safety of others. For example, a company may produce an employee handbook with a specific section about safety procedures while working in the office.

9. Desire to improve

Having the desire to improve is an ethical standard because it ensures that each individual strives to get better at their job. This means learning new skills, perfecting current skills and achieving new goals. It also shows respect towards the company by putting in your best work and showing a willingness to improve. For example, when you are in a meeting with your manager, you need to make sure you stay open to feedback and act upon their suggestions and recommendations.

Related: How To Develop Your Skill Set To Advance Your Career

10. Diversity acceptance

Diversity acceptance is an important example of ethics at work. This ethical standard ensures that a company's culture promotes the acceptance of other people's differences, whether in culture, gender, age, beliefs, religion or sexual orientation. It shows respect towards others by not only accepting their differences but also celebrating them in a positive manner. For example, it means recognising that some people may be reluctant to speak up in meetings and ensuring they are able to contribute in a way that is comfortable for them.

Read more: Diversity Strategies You Can Implement In the Workplace

11. Seeking to understand others

Seeking to understand others is an ethical standard because it ensures that each individual is making an effort to learn about the opinions and concerns of other people. It also ensures that each individual is actively learning about their colleagues by communicating effectively, listening, showing respect and expressing interest in their views. For example, when you are in a meeting with your team, it is important that you ask questions about certain aspects of their work or question specific situations they may have encountered.

12. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a critical standard of workplace ethics because it ensures that each individual respects the confidentiality of their colleagues, the company or clients. It ensures that they share no sensitive information through texts, social media, email or phone calls. For example, if you are a doctor meeting with a patient, it is important to keep medical information confidential to promote patient trust and safety.

13. Etiquette

Etiquette is an important ethical standard at work because it helps create a positive work environment by ensuring that people are polite and respectful of each other. It also shows respect to others by following protocol, listening effectively, speaking appropriately and avoiding rude behaviour. For example, when you are in a meeting with your team, it is important to know how to properly use the correct greetings as well as rules for addressing others in a proper manner.


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