Workplace Ethics – The Basics
The word "ethic" is defined as, "The body of moral principles or values governing or distinctive of a particular culture or group" or "A complex of moral precepts held or rules of conduct followed by an individual"1. It has been said that having ethics is doing the right or moral thing when no one is looking. Ethics is a personal choice and therefore, how workplace ethics are governed depends upon the personal ethics of those who are in authority over that workplace and also those who work in that environment.
Workplace Ethics – Personal Standards
Workplace ethics are an extension of the personal standards or lack of them that is inherent in the people who make up the workplace. With all of the news and attention upon those who have proven that they were devoid of moral ethics in the way that they conducted their business, it behooves us to look at the basis for ethics that will stand the test and the trial of temptation in a world that seems to reward the "shady deal." It seems that the current worldview deems that the only wrong thing about shady business dealings and immoral workplace ethics is in getting "caught."
Workplace Ethics – Does the Bible give any guidance?
The Bible gives us several principles that can be applied to workplace ethics. We will look at two. The first is found in 1 Corinthians 4:2: "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." The idea here is one of a position of responsibility and of submission to authority.
Each person is given a responsibility and we are to be "faithful" in that trust. The word "faithful" is translated from the Greek word "pistis" and it means to be steadfast to one’s word or promises, worthy to be believed, trustworthy, and having dependable speech. It is very interesting that we find this same word used to depict the faithfulness of God. "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24, KJV). This same word is used for the character of God and it therefore should be seen in those who are His children. The conclusion is that the basis for workplace ethics is that those in the workplace, both employer and employee, should see their lives as being a steward who is responsible to govern their actions by the viewpoint and the model of God's faithfulness.
The other principle is found in a passage in Ephesians. "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him" (Ephesians 6:5-9).
This is not a forum about slavery but about personal responsibility in regard to workplace ethics. We can use principles found in this passage to apply to the relationship between the employer and the employee. An employee should be obedient and respectful of their employers and employers should treat their employees in view of the fact that they are both servants of the same Master. These instructions are given to believers and this is the minimum requirement for obedience to God. Both the employee and the employer are responsible to treat each other in a manner consistent with the brotherhood of one child of God to another. We can then conclude that good, moral workplace ethics are a result of a faithful stewardship of authority and faithful obedience to the divine principles found in the Word of God.
1 The Random House Dictionary of the English Language.
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