Unethical Behavior in the Workplace

Published December 23, 2012 by Mayrbear's Lair

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I was raised in an environment with substantial cultural differences than the one in which I was educated. Although I was introduced to a high level of morals and values, what I witnessed were highly unethical practices from the ones I loved. I learned through strict disciplinary policies, the importance of being honest. The consequences for getting caught in a lie were dire. As I grew older, internalization shifted my ethical reasoning. My moral framework moved from externally driven behaviors to internal control of what I believed was right or wrong (Kohlberg, 1966). Overcoming abuse and bullying experiences motivated me to increase my own levels of ethical competence. I joined the professional workplace with ethical sensibility. My Achilles heel was the inability to stand up to the unethical behavior of others. This resulted in recurring experiences of sexual harassment and misconduct. I kept silent when I was young and naïve for fear of losing my job. After I became a mother, I found courage to expose exploitative manipulative behavior.

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For instance, one day, wearing a loose fit  denim shirt and baggy jeans, I walked into the copy room at a former place of employment. A co-worker was there. He was an older individual that communicated intrusive messages: showing kindness; asking personal questions; offering advice, etc. I began to trust him as a friend akin to that of a father and greeted him politely. He walked over to me, pulled me in, planted an open mouth kiss and said “Good Morning!” He did not realize this was an unethical action; that he was sending a destructive message! I don’t remember much else after that, being in a state of shock. Perhaps if the man had been younger, looked like Hugh Jackman, I would have reacted differently, I laughingly told my supervisor, nervously explaining what had just transpired.  In truth, the employee lacked ethical reasoning and his behavior was completely inappropriate. I was facing another sexual misconduct situation. This time I did not keep quiet. Rather than pressing charges, and to avoid encouraging further unethical responses from the perpetrator, I told my supervisor to advise him that if he came anywhere near me again, even to say hello, I would press charges. He never bothered me again.

Kohlberg, L. (1966). A cognitive developmental analysis of children’s sex role concept and attitudes. In E. E. Maccoby. (Ed.), The development of sex differences. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press

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