From large corporations to small businesses, individuals involved in all types of business often face ethical issues stemming from employee behavior. For example, whether an employee can spend work time checking personal email accounts, how a manager deals with claims of harassment and to what extent a manager can "groom" a certain employee for a promotion are all examples of ethical issues regarding employee behavior. There are legal consequences for some unethical employee behavior. For example, if a supervisor discriminated against an employee based on her gender, religion or ethnicity when making recommendations for a promotion, legal action could be sought. Small business owners can help to prevent ethical problems stemming from employee behavior by drafting a clear, attorney-reviewed set of standards that dictate behavior policies for employees at all levels. Employee Working Conditions
In addition to employee behavior, there are a number of ethical issues business people must consider about employee working conditions. For example, employers must be aware of the safety of their work environment and if they have compensated employees for all the time they have worked. The must also consider if they have required an employee to work an unreasonably long period of time or if they have him doing an unusually difficult task. Just like there are legal consequences for some unethical issues regarding employee behavior, there are also legal consequences for unethical working conditions. For example, an employer who requires an employee to work without pay or who creates an unsafe working environment can face legal action. Supplier/Customer Relations
In addition employees and business owners must consider the ethical issues involved with their relationships between suppliers and customers. Business owners in particular must consider whether it is ethical to do business with suppliers who have unethical practices. When dealing with customers or clients, business people must ensure that they use their information correctly, do not falsely advertise a product or service, and do not intentionally do sub-standard work. Small Business Ethics
Although there are ethical issues like discrimination that apply to all areas of business, each business area has its own ethical concerns. For example, business people who act as consultants must ensure they are giving sound advice. In the area of small business, some major ethical issues result from hiring, firing and dealing with employees. For example, conflicts of interest may cause ethical issues in small businesses, especially if they are family run. When personal family issues interfere with business decisions, this is a conflict of interest and an ethical concern.
You're the boss in a predominantly male environment. The presence of a new female employee stirs up conflict because your company has not had a chance to conduct sensitivity training. Some of your male employees make inappropriate remarks to your new employee. She complains to you; in response, you sanction those responsible for the conduct. You also wonder if it would be wise to move your new female employee to another position where she would be less likely to draw attention. Treating your female employee differently based on her gender or in response to a harassment complaint may be considered discriminatory and unethical conduct. Side Deals
You're a business manager with an employment contract. The contract requires you to work solely for your employer and use your talents to attract new clients to the business. If you begin attracting more clients than you believe your employer can reasonably handle, you may wonder if there would be an ethical issue with your diverting that excess business elsewhere and taking the commission. If you don't, at minimum, disclose the idea to your employer, you will likely be in breach of both your contractual and ethical duties. Partners
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