4 Behavioral Ethics Examples

Behavioural Ethics

What is Behavioural Ethics?

Behavioural ethics is a branch of philosophy that studies why certain people make ethical decisions while others make unethical decisions; basically, it involves analysing the behaviour of the person behind making various decisions. Apart from philosophy, behavioural ethics finds its roots in various other disciplines such as cognitive science, evolutionary biology, and behavioural psychology. Although behavioural ethics primarily belongs to philosophy, it does not employ the traditional methods of philosophy. For example, traditional philosophy focuses on how people behave in certain circumstances, while behavioural ethics focuses on why people behave in a particular manner in certain circumstances. Behavioural ethics focuses on analysing how several cognitive or environmental factors influence the decisions of the person. Various researchers in behavioural ethics highlight that most of the decisions made by people are completely rational. Mostly, their ethical choices are based on their feelings and intuitions and not based on the calculated analysis of any situation. The decisions of the person who makes the unethical decisions are usually influenced by the various unconscious bias and various outward stimuli that he/she directly do not pay any attention to. Behavioural ethics not only focus on the decisions that people make but also on the way they made the decision. Behavioural ethics helps in understanding why certain people make unethical choices even if they have good intentions.

Understanding Behavioural Ethics

Background of Behavioural Ethics

A volume published by Messick and Tenbrunsel in 1996 is considered one of the early works in the field of behavioural ethics. This volume describes the psychology of ethics in a systematic and organized way. Most of the papers included in this volume explain the ways in which an individual makes a decision and makes the judgement about the moral decisions of others. Loewenstein’s chapter included in it explains the ways the behavioural decision theory can be applied to understand the various ethical decisions. Behavioural decisions theory refers to studying the trade-offs made by people when they have to choose something from the various options. This theory generally explains the trade-offs between the well being or benefit of the one who is making the decision and the other person. For example, suppose you are working in a production company, and you find out that the management is adulterating the product for their benefit. Now, you have to make a trade-off between losing your job for being a whistleblower and allowing the potential consumers to suffer from the side effects of consuming the adulterated product by not taking any actions to stop the production of the adulterated products. According to Lowernstein (1996), one can use the behavioural decision theory to tackle situations like these and make better ethical decisions. Messick and Bazerman proposed that the way an individual makes a decision can be understood through the three types of theories. Which are, ‘theories related to the world,’ ‘theories related to the other people,’ and ‘theories related to ourselves.’ Theories related to the world deal with our perspective of looking at the world around us, i.e., the way we perceive and interpret our surroundings. Theories related to the other dealt with the person’s assumption of the way he/she is different from the other people. Theories related to ourselves refer to the false or unrealistic beliefs that a person holds about himself/herself; it is due to this inaccurate judgement of oneself, that a person tends to act underconfident or overconfident in different situations. The work of Messick and Bazerman helps us in evaluating the various ethical decisions.

Messick and Tenbrunsel (1996)

Examples of Behavioural Ethics

1. At the Workplace

The ethical behaviour of the employees and the managers acts as a crucial factor in determining the growth of the company. We can understand the need for ethical behaviour in the workplace by understanding how unethical behaviour can impact the company. Suppose a company hires only the people from the family or provides unequal opportunities to the employees. These actions of the company may not be claimed as illegal, but they’ll directly affect the growth of the company. Discrimination among the employees may create a negative work environment that will eventually result in lower productivity and less business growth. A company that does not follow moral values and ethics might get success for a short period, but it will surely have a negative impact in the long run. On contrary, if the company hire people that possess high moral values and follow ethical behaviour, these people are highly likely to make unbiased decisions. Team leaders or managers possessing high moral values will fairly take all the decisions gaining the trust of the team members or employees in turn, which eventually leads to the success of the company. If the leaders show ethical behaviour it will encourage the others to act ethically too. Employers or the management can make use of certain principles of behavioural ethics to promote ethical behaviour in the workplace.

Workplace Ethics

Workplace ethics refers to a certain set of values and moral principles that should be followed by everyone at the workplace whether it’s employees or the employer. The ethics are usually formulated by the employer or the managing team to ensure the smooth functioning of the various activities at the workplace.

Workplace Ethics

Ethical Behaviour at the Workplace Examples

Being Professional

The employees should maintain a good professional relationship with each other. It not only promotes teamwork but also the personal career development of the employee. Building professional relationships with colleagues or managers enhance work productivity as the communication between the employees and the managers improve. It becomes easy to share various ideas and knowledge between the employees at the lower and the higher hierarchy if they have a good professional relationship between them. Also, one should avoid the use of informal language at the workplace as it is highly unprofessional behaviour. Does not matter whether you are the manager or an intern, you should always use formal and non-abusive words in the workplace.

Taking the Responsibility

The employees or the employer should always take responsibility for their decisions, rather than blaming others for the failure of any idea. This is one of the most important traits that one should possess if they want to build up their leadership qualities. Also, one should not target a particular employee or the manager for the failure of any idea; for example, if the marketing team of the company executed a campaign and it failed, then instead of firing the head of the team, one should look at the reasons behind that failure. The head may be leading the marketing campaign but the team members should also take the responsibility for the failure. The same thing also implies if the campaign gets successful.

Obeying the Rules and Regulations of the Company

Employees should follow the various rules and regulations of the company. To ensure that the employees follow the rules and regulations, the team leaders or the managers of the company should also follow them. This motivates the employees to follow the rules and regulations.

Respecting Others in the Workplace

Whether the other person is in a higher or a lower position than yours, you should treat everyone at your workplace with respect. If you are the manager of your company, your team will follow your orders happily if you ask to follow them with respect rather than boasting. If the employees are treated with respect at the workplace they will put more effort into their work, which eventually enhances the productivity at the workplace and the growth of the company.

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Employees’ Unethical Behaviour Examples at the Workplace
Taking other’s Credit

It is commonly seen in some companies that the manager of a particular team in the company takes whole the credit for achieving any target without acknowledging the effort of the team members for the success. The real reason behind the success of a project could be the idea of any particular employee that enhances the sales by double. If the manager takes the credit or the efforts of that employee instead of acknowledging him/her, the chances are that the employee won’t put any effort into the next project.


It is often seen that many employees lie about their skills and experience or their resume to get a job. These people may manage to get their resumes shortlisted for job interviews but when the employer finds the truth they are highly likely to lose the job. The employer or the managers would find it difficult to trust the employees who were found lying once, hence employees should be honest at the workplace and follow the work ethics.

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The way the employees of the company communicate with the clients or with colleagues speaks a lot about the work ethics of that company. Employees should refrain from using unprofessional or abusive words at the workplace. This becomes even more important if you are working as a salesperson or customer care representative. If the employees use abusive language with the clients or customers it could jeopardize the reputation of the company in the market.

Verbal Abuse at Workplace


Violent behaviour of the employees is highly unethical behaviour in the workplace. Suppose you are working as a salesperson, and a customer rejects to buy the product that you have been persuading him to buy for the last three hours, or a customer is provoking you, this can make you angry, but don’t forget the work ethics. Instead of being involved in violent activity, you should talk to the management. Management can take strict actions against the employees who act violently with their colleagues or the customers.

Violence at Workplace

Non-office Work during Office Hours

Some employees take the advantage of the office breaks and use that time to do various other work unrelated to the office work. Utilizing office hours to do your personal work or side hustles is against the work ethics.

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Examples of Unethical Behaviour of Management or Companies
Unpaid Overtime

Some companies take advantage of the freshers and the desperate job seekers by hiring them at low wages. People agree to work at lower wages thinking that the employer is doing them a favour while the favour is mutual in reality. Also, some employers make their employees work more than their working hours by putting an extra workload on them. Employers should pay their employees for overtime.

Verbal Harassment

Some employers or managers verbally harass the employees even for their small mistakes, which is against the work ethics. Verbal harassment by the managers may reduce the morale of the employees and eventually lead to lower productivity.

Workload on Employees

Setting the deadlines to finish the assigned makes sure that the projects get done on time. However, some managers put undue pressure on the employees by setting unexpected deadlines in the greed of getting more work done in less time. However, this may result in poor quality work.

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Like other industries, some employers or managers are often seen indulging in nepotism. It is commonly seen that in some companies the panel prefers to promote the employee who is a family member or close relative over the other employee who may be dedicated to working for the company. These things make the hard-working and skilled employees resign.

Nepotism in Companies

Negative Work Environment

The work environment is one of the crucial factors that impact the productivity of the employees at the workplace.  The work environment includes several factors such as the way the employee treats the employees, the learning opportunities that employees are getting, the ambience of the office, and so on. If the employee feels that they are not feeling respected or he/she is facing any kind of abuse or harassment at the workplace, it will eventually make them leave the company. If the employers use unethical behaviours it will lead to a negative work environment.

Negative Work Environment

2. In Business

Business Ethics

Understanding the behavioural ethical principles helps the business to understand the behaviour of the consumer. Thus, they can make changes in their sales and marketing strategies according to the consumer’s behaviour and increase the sales of their product. Some organizations use unethical approaches to gain monetary benefits. Following are some examples of unethical behaviour among organizations.

  • Throwing the wastage of the factories into the freshwater bodies rather than dumping it properly.
  • Not following the rules and regulations of the environmental protection agencies.
  • Producing the adulterated or default products for monetary benefits.
  • Acquisition of the small scale companies by the large companies.

3. In Formulating Government Policies

Various rules and regulations that will positively impact society can be implemented by understanding behaviour ethics. It is often observed that some people do not obey the various rules and policies implemented by the government. Behavioural ethics principles can help lawmakers aptly evaluate the way the rules and regulations should be implemented so that people follow them by heart without feeling any obligations.

 4. Unethical Behaviour Examples in Medical Profession

Ethics in Medical Field

  • Using the patient for the research purpose without his/her consent.
  • Advising the costly or unnecessary treatments to the patients for the monetary benefits.
  • Not revealing the patient the real diagnosis after the operation in case of any mistake.
  • Not following the medical code of conduct.

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