“The truth of the matter is that you are always going to know the right thing to

do. The hard part is doing it” Norman Schwarzkopf

The good news is that most of us have a conscience that tells us right from wrong. The bad news is that we choose not to listen to it sometimes. When you are at work always listen to your conscience. Even when others are not listening to theirs.


Because honesty is a critical part of your reputation, and as we have said, reputation is a very fragile thing. It only takes one dishonest action to destroy a lifetime of good works. Ethics is relentless, it never takes a break. It tells the world if you can be trusted, what values you have, the kind of person you are, whether you can be relied on, the way you think.

Let’s talk about positive ethical behaviour before we get into the traps for the new starters. Here are some honest and ethical things you can do to improve your reputation.

10 things that develop your reputation

• Be known as the person others can rely on. The person who gets things done. • Be trustworthy. Keep your word. Keep confidences, and secrets.
• Don’t be a gossip. Never badmouth anyone.
• Be on time. Don’t brag. Let your work do the talking.

• Never complain.
• Be professional with co-workers/friendship is optional.
• The behaviour you walk past is the behaviour you condone. If you see something unethical report it.
• Never tolerate abuse.
• Always accept that your boss has the right to say what you do, when you do it and how you do it.
• Be honest. If/when you mess up then own up to it straightaway. Don’t leave it for others to find.

Ethics is black and white. No grey. It’s a hard area for new starters because everyone wants to “fit in” and if there is any unethical behaviour in your workplace, the tendency is to accept it because it’s always easier to go with the crowd, even if you know it’s wrong.

This is particularly difficult as the new starter you have no network of contacts within the business, and are not sure where to turn when you find something wrong happening. Also you don’t want to be known as a “dobber”. So what to do?

Because you are a new starter you have some advantages. You are a “cleanskin” and have no history with the workplace, so you can and must say that you are not comfortable in doing the wrong thing. That will get you credit with some co-workers who may also be feeling the same way.

If other co-workers try to push you into doing something wrong then walk away, it’s not worth it. These co-workers who do not have your interests at heart are only going to get you into trouble.

Let’s talk about some typical ethical problems a new starter might face on beginning work. Things like:

• Is it OK to call in sick when you aren’t?
• Is it OK to take pens home from the office?
• Is it OK to make a personal phone call from work?
• Is it OK to take extra 10 minutes off for lunch?
• Is it OK to use the office computer for personal Internet use?


If you answered YES to any of the above, you are not alone. Over 60% of people in a survey thought that this behaviour was OK.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that it is unethical. Actually, it’s stealing from someone who has given you a job.

While “everybody else does it” might cut it as an excuse with your best friend, it’s not right and it’s damaging something more important: your reputation.

I say that anytime you are faced with a decision at work that involves doing something that wasn’t in the employment deal you should ask yourself ”Will doing this improve or destroy my reputation” and then you’ll know if it’s right or wrong.

The problem remains though. If you are the new guy on the block and everybody else is using company resources for their benefit what should you do?

The first thing is to try and not get into that position. Avoid the temptation to start using company resources because they are convenient.

Take personal emails and communications for example. Switch your mobile off while at work. If you want, make a point of turning on your phone only at lunch and responding to any urgent matters on your phone at that time.

If you find that there is no choice but to use the office photocopier for personal use, then ask for permission to use it – but out of hours. Offer to pay for the copies. Even if the supervisor refuses, you will find that your supervisor will think more of you because of your honesty. Your reputation will be intact.

It is unlikely a new employee will be involved with cash or commercial transactions. But be aware that every day in Australia employees are dismissed and legal action taken against them for fraud. This can be from a few dollars, to thousands of dollars. And of course, if you are dismissed for fraudulent activity, you will not only lose any of your entitlements, but also kiss goodbye to getting another job.

Ten everyday non-ethical behaviours you should avoid

Other types of unethical behaviour that you will see, but should avoid:

• Not returning phone calls
• Making promises that you won’t or can’t keep
• Committing the business to an expense you cannot authorise • Telling lies
• Saying a product will do something it doesn’t
• Being a gossip
• Speaking badly of co-workers (including bosses!!)
• Being late for work appointments
• Treating co-workers/customers with disrespect