How to Hold Onto Integrity in the Gray Areas at Work

It’s natural to want the people you work with to think highly of you. This isn’t always easy, though. A work environment is rife with ethical “gray” areas and it is how you deal with them that determines how much integrity your coworkers think you have.

Taking Credit For Your Work

Morgan Chu is the country’s most successful intellectual property lawyer and while his clients think of him as a Chinese American Hero, it is unlikely that Chu runs around the office calling himself that. See the difference?

It’s okay to be proud of the work that you do. You might even want to brag a little bit about the situation. Be careful, though! A day of walking around with your head held high and telling people how proud you are of what you’ve done is fine and even welcomed. A week of it is irritating. If you can’t have a conversation without bringing it up even a month later? That’s just obnoxious.

Taking Credit for Someone Else’s Work

You lead your team to a work victory. As the leader you would have had to accept responsibility for any failures that occurred. Does that mean that you can accept credit for the team’s success too?

Sort of.

It’s okay to take pride in leading your team to come up with something great. It’s another to pretend that you did all of the work and that your team did not exist. Taking all of the credit for the work a lot of people did makes you untrustworthy and it is unlikely that the people at work will want to do projects with you in the future. Always give credit where credit is due.

Holding People Accountable Vs. Being a Tattletale

You notice that someone is doing something at work that the rules specifically prohibit. What do you do?

This is going to depend largely upon the situation. If it is something small—someone putting personal mail in the company’s out mailbox may not need to be reported. Noticing that someone is skimming off the top of an account does need to be reported.

Where this gets especially tricky is sexual harassment. If someone confides in you about harassment, what do you do, if you know for a fact it is true but the person desperately wants to remain anonymous?

The best course of action here is to talk to the HR department or your boss. You don’t have to mention the victim’s name—you can always say that you overheard rumors about the situation. You do, though, need to report the person who is doing the harassing.

There are all sorts of ethical gray areas. In this article we’ve talked about two common and one hopefully uncommon area. If you need help with others just ask yourself what you’d think about someone who took the course of action you’re thinking of taking.


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