Importance of Personal Ethics in the Workplace

by Olatorera Oladeji
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Ethics in the workplace

As an individual, it is essential and a sign of excellence that some set of values defines you in all aspects of life. They constitute the boundaries, set goals, and a roadmap, all in a bid to shape you into a particular society at any given time or situation. These values are known as personal ethics, or in a professional setting, ethics in the workplace.

What Are Personal Ethics?

Personal ethics refers to a set of moral principles that a person identifies with regarding people and situations they deal with in their everyday lives. These personal ethics also find a way into their workplaces. It may be a description of such a person at work. For example: “Tunde, the punctual worker.” This unique personal ethic often determines how a person handles situations, crises, and emergencies at work. Personal ethics in the workplace is a great asset to any team.

It is crucial that, as an employee, you have a set of values that guide you and ultimately become your guiding ethics in the workplace. These values should align appropriately with the goal of the organisation where you work.

Some of these personal ethics in the workplace include honesty, respect, selflessness, and team spirit. These ethics are helpful and very important in the workplace, either as an employer or employee.

The organizational structure of a company is based on vision and mission. Your workplace has its set goals to achieve, and your ethics must be in sync with such goals for better experiences. For instance, a company like Piggybank, whose focus is finance is very unlikely to hire a person that is not meticulous. This is because potential errors by a careless person would have a ripple effect and may tarnish the organization’s image. So, it is essential to emphasise personal ethics in the workplace for each individual.

Attributes that Constitute the Personal Ethics of an Individual

  1. Loyalty

This means being faithful or committed. If you’re loyal, you will demonstrate a strong level of commitment in every aspect of your life. This trait extends to your workplace also. You are often trusted no matter the circumstance. This form of ethics in the workplace makes you stand out.

  1. Integrity

This simply means a commitment to uphold certain principles that you lay down. Anyone with integrity will stay true and committed to a cause, person or workplace. This type of ethics in the workplace gives a great impression of you as being reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Fairness

A fair person treats people equally regardless of their station in life. These people make good line managers as they can communicate effectively with both the lower-ranking members of staff and higher-ranking ones in a workplace. Being fair means being approachable because each staff member is assured a certain level of respect and dignity. This trait cuts across all other spheres of your life, not just in the workplace. This form of ethics in the workplace is fundamental if you’re working with a team to ensure that some do not feel targeted during criticism.

  1. Responsibility

This means a person is always responsible for their actions. You own up to your actions – either positive or negative – at all times. You are quick to accept corrections and make adjustments where necessary.

  1. Selflessness

This means that you put others first and do not act entitled afterwards as a person. You carry out such acts because those are the personal ethics you operate by in everyday life, not just in the workplace. You will make a great team player as you are always ready to cover the lapses of your teammates in the workplace. It may be bad if you are paired with lazy teammates who may take advantage of your selflessness, but having this attribute is better for your career growth.

  1. Honesty

An honest person tells the truth at all times. It is not limited to the workplace but extends to all areas of their life. People trust you with valuable and confidential tasks, which ultimately catapults your career. Many Nigerians have disparaged this virtue because of the systematic corruption in the country. However, it reigns supreme amongst all personal ethics in the workplace and at large.

  1. Self-respect

Colleagues in the workplace almost always respect an individual who possesses self-respect. With this attribute, you command respect from clients and colleagues alike. It is a trait often found in team leaders as it makes the other colleagues listen to them.

  1. Passion

This is borne out of the value you place on whatever you choose to spend your time on. As a passionate person, you give your best and all to work and are often great to work with on projects they value. This passion could make you overly sensitive on a job, but the aim is to do the job with precision. This aspect of ethics in the workplace is what many employers hope to get from you as an employee.

No one was born with these sets of personal ethics. You acquire them through determination and focus. You can follow some principles to cultivate excellent personal ethics that would extend to your workplace and other aspects of your life.

Read also: Interpersonal skills for career development in Nigerians

Principles to Cultivate Personal Ethics in a Workplace

  1. Be sure of what you want

Knowing what you want, where you are, and where you are going helps cultivate excellent personal ethics. For instance, if you’re going to be a footballer, you know that you need to have a fit body. This knowledge guides how you treat your body to achieve that goal. Hence, a clear-cut vision helps in cultivating great ethics.

  1. Write down what you want

No human memory is 100% accurate. This is why people always advise you to write. Writing helps put your vision in focus. Like our earlier football example above, the aspiring footballer may get distracted, but as soon as he sees a reminder in writing, it refuels his motivation for the journey.

  1. Be disciplined

An aspiring footballer knows he has to be selfless and work for hand in hand with his teammates in the future. So, he starts building all the necessary skills early enough so that once the opportunity to go professional arrives, he’ll find it easy to adapt.

Having personal ethics has numerous advantages, not just for individual co-workers and employers in the workplace. One cannot overemphasize the multiplier effect of personal ethics in the workplace.

Read also: How to manage productivity guilt

Advantages of Personal Ethics in the Workplace

  1. Solid relationship amongst the employees

The ethical employee quickly builds lasting relationships with their co-workers. Everyone knows what you believe in and how you may react to certain situations. This means you’re more relatable with little potential for misunderstandings.

  1. Team bonding

Personal ethics in the workplace means it’s easy to identify each team member for what they can do, and therefore, roles are easily assigned. This is a good thing as it aids the division of labour. This will only affect the workplace if a member of a team leaves and someone new is employed. The new staff may find it hard to fit into the team initially. Some workers may be stuck or stereotyped in a particular role and would find it difficult in a new role. The team will need to work out a balance that suits both the workplace and the individuals.

  1. Aids division of labour

Identifying personal ethics in the workplace helps to know what task an employee can handle effectively without supervision. It enables the leader of any team in a workplace to lead effectively. They will identify the personal ethics that guide various people, hence dealing with them. For instance: Mr. L is the team head in logistics. He knows Mr. U is honest and is most likely to handle money and finance.

  1. Team trust

Once people know you for a particular attribute or personal ethics, they will hold you to such standards. Every co-worker would know what to expect from you, and it’ll be like living in a home with complete transparency. Wherever there is transparency, trust will follow.

  1. Foster growth of the workplace

Identifying an employee’s ethics in the workplace helps an organisation know the area that such an employee will fit into that will contribute to the company’s growth. It makes it easy to leverage your strengths and put your best into your work. For instance, if you are bold, convincing, and assertive, the company may be confident to send you to present a proposal before an impressionable audience that may turn around the fortune of such a company.

  1. Aids decision-making process

Knowing the personal ethics in the workplace of several employees aids the decision-making process. For instance, if two employees are equally qualified for a role, the personal ethics of the employees in question becomes a determining factor in who eventually gets the part. An employee who always gives excuses during complex tasks is less likely to be promoted than one who doesn’t shy away from responsibilities.

Read also: Personal development guide for Nigerians

Difference Between Personal Ethics and Professional Ethics

Often, people mistake personal ethics in the workplace for professional ethics. They are different because personal ethics is about the individual and what they identify within all life situations. Whereas professional ethics refers to what a person must adhere to regarding their job description.

For instance, in the legal profession, confidentiality is essential. A person who is usually not discreet has to be discreet because the job demands it. This is different from a person who is discreet on all occasions.

In all these interactions, personal ethics in the workplace is vital in how people perceive you. It provides opportunities for growth, significant personal and professional interactions, and a solid value system.


“A man without values is like a beast in the wild with no guide.” This quote points to the fact that any individual without personal ethics stands for nothing. This does not take away the fact that sometimes the different ethics in the workplace may be an excuse for rigidity that may ultimately stunt growth.

An example of the above is a man who is reputed for loyalty but is loyal to a criminal or a person of questionable character. Loyalty is a trait and personal ethics is good but can be detrimental in the wrong context. This applies to trusted allies of corrupt organisations. They are in that trusted position because of their ethics but are not using it for the right cause.

In summary, any individual with personal ethics is an asset to any workplace or organisation. Proper management of such talent will have a positive multiplier effect on any organisation at large.

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About Author

Avatar of Olatorera Oladeji
Olatorera Oladeji
Torera Oladeji is a Nigerian lawyer. She has a flair for writing and has decided to explore that passion. She is fun loving, enjoys her own company and hopes to be an established writer soon. She is currently a volunteer with

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