Engineering Firms – Ethical Behavior
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How do we as professional engineers ensure ethical behavior in the workplace?
We all want to do our best work, but we also have a responsibility to behave ethically. Ethical behavior is about putting public safety and the interests of our clients above our own. It means making choices that benefit society as a whole rather than just yourself or your company.
In order for engineers to provide their best work, they need to be able to make ethical decisions at every level of their career – from choosing projects and clients all the way up through managing teams and leading organizations. But how can engineers ensure ethical behavior in the workplace? And what does it mean for them on a daily basis? Let’s take a look!
This article discusses how professional engineers can maintain high standards of ethics in their careers by following these steps outlined below. You will also understand why having strong ethics is important not only for individual success but also for overall organizational success as well!
Read our comprehensive article that covers Engineering Ethics for Professional Engineers.
What Is Ethical Behavior
Being an ethical person means being honest, fair and just in your interactions with other people. It includes treating them equally as well when it comes to academic work or research projects no matter what their background is. It encompasses respecting the dignity of all individuals without discrimination. An important aspect of ethical behavior is giving consideration to how our decisions will affect others around us.
Ethical behavior in the workplace
Ethical decision making is the ultimate way to act in a manner that will benefit both yourself and those around you. It’s important for organizations, too!
Virtuous employees are more likely have positive outcomes on their workplace- they’re seen as polite professionals with good moral character by management who can work toward success for everyone involved.
Ethics in the workplace is defined as the moral code that guides an employee’s behavior. Ethical decision making takes into account all stakeholders, including oneself and those impacted by their decisions.
However, it can be difficult for individuals when they’re faced with multiple obligations to choose between right or wrong choices on a daily basis.
The responsibility falls heavily upon both individual employees and management alike: we must set high standards of conduct so our actions reflect positively not only toward ourselves but those around us.
Professional engineers and ethical behavior
The NSPE code of ethics states that “engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public”.
Professional engineers must conduct business honorably so that the public trust in the profession continues to grow. They do this by adhering to a set professional behaviors, which require they not only work hard but also act ethically in all interactions.
Professional ethics is the way we act. Here are some simple guidelines for maintaining ethical behavior in your professional life:
- Conduct yourself in a manner that is trustworthy
- Consider the effect your decisions have on others
- Strive to be honest and transparent in all interactions
- Perform work only in areas where you are an expert (or have guidance from one)
Value of Ethics to the Engineering Profession
As members of an important and learned profession, engineers are expected to have the highest standards of honesty. They must consistently meet these expectations of high personal integrity in order to maintain their professional standing within the community. Professional engineers should follow ethical guidelines when deciding how best to complete projects for them.
The public expects engineers to design products and provide services that are safe and effective. If ethics in the workplace and engineering profession is compromised, it can result in loss of public trust.
- Negative publicity for your company/employer
- Loss of work
- Negative impact on future job prospects
- Damage to personal reputation
Ensuring Ethical Behavior in the Workplace
A strong and positive work environment is key to the success of any organization. A company’s culture provides an excellent example for others in how it should be done, which promotes both ethical behavior from employees as well as increased value creation by companies themselves.
The evidence shows that businesses with high workplace ethics have greater financial returns on investment. This is largely due to lower turnover rates since workers feel safe about coming into contact with their colleagues and management. This can only lead us towards generating more profit than before when considering all aspects such a business ownership like finance management or sales strategies among many other things.
Here are 8 strategies to ensure you and your colleagues conduct yourselves ethically and professionally:
- Create a code of ethics and conduct
- Reinforce the advantages of ethical behavior
- Lead by example
- Establish a training program for your team
- Create an atmosphere that encourages ethical behavior
- Learn from your failures
1 – Code of ethics and conduct
Promoting ethical conduct in the workplace can be done by creating a code of ethics and conduct. The following are some helpful tips to ensure that your company’s employees are behaving ethically:
- Clearly establish what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior for your employees.
- Create policies surrounding conflicts of interest, nepotism, bribery, discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment), etc. These should also include ways to report violations or concerns about any unethical behavior.
- Make sure supervisors under you know how to respond when an employee discloses an issue with someone else’s unethical behavior. Ensure they understand what qualifies as retaliation; it could be something like withholding resources from them or denying their annual review due to reporting another person
2 – Reinforce the advantages of ethical behavior
It can be easy to forget about ethical behavior in an office environment. When you’re busy, there are a lot of things that could distract you from the task at hand. For example, when someone’s working on their laptop and they notice that their email has come in with new messages, it’s much easier for them to take a quick glance at it than to finish what they were doing first.
As understandable as this seems, this is not the best course of action because viewing emails while working can lead people down an unethical path. It can cause them to lose focus on what they should be concentrating on or make them feel like they have more time available than they actually do if it turns out that the notifications are just updates about tasks done
3 – Lead by example
Most professionals are familiar with the importance of ethical conduct within the workplace. It’s important to maintain a professional, positive and respectful environment for all employees. Here are strategies that leading organizations use to set this tone:
- Discuss the company values and code of ethics in all new hire orientations and team meetings
- Maintain an open door policy which means it’s ok if people need to talk about anything – they can come see me or someone else on management team any time day or night without concern for reprisal
- Encourage leadership development through education such as training courses, webinars, etc. so everyone has opportunities to grow their skills
4 – Establish a training program for your team
We all take pride in the work we do, and creating a training program hat promotes ethics is one way of doing so. The program should be interactive and engaging for everyone to get involved. Incorporating group discussions, workshops, presentations, games can really help people engage while learning about what it means to conduct oneself ethically.
By providing great training programs like these, you are not only teaching but reinforcing ethical values throughout your workplace culture.
5 – Create an atmosphere that encourages ethical behavior
Ethics is a topic that spans all types of industries. It is important to not only have an atmosphere that encourages ethical behavior but also to make sure you are following the ethics guidelines for your industry.
Some common questions in this area include: does your company deal with sensitive information? Do they employ former criminals or people in recovery from addictions? Are there any policies in place to prevent conflicts of interest and other unethical behaviors?
These are just some examples of many different things you may want to think about when it comes to maintaining ethical standards at work.
6 – Learn from your failures
Ethical behavior and professional conduct are important considerations for professional organizations. Leading engineering firms have recognized that ethical behavior leads to more successful projects and improved company morale. These companies encourage their employees by providing education about what is expected from them and how they should conduct themselves.
Successful firms learn from their mistakes and adjust their policies and behavior accordingly. It is through this process of continuous improvement that past mistakes become guiding lessons for delivering value to clients and society.
Examples of Ethical Behavior
Engineers must maintain a professional demeanor that adheres to the highest ideals of ethical behavior. This can be a difficult standard to understand, so it is helpful to have examples of what ethical and unethical behavior looks like.
By far the most common form of unethical behavior in today’s workplace is misuse of company time. This includes employees who spend hours on social media sites or browsing online, using conference calls for personal matters (or even playing games) – all without completing their assigned tasks.
Abusive behavior, such as threatening another employee with physical violence or bullying them into changing their opinion, is also a form of unethical behavior that should never be tolerated.
Employee theft is another example of unethical behavior at work. This might include stealing sensitive documents from a company database or using a company’s assets for personal gain.
Lying to your employer or coworkers is also unethical professional behavior. This can include making false representations on resumes or credentials, lying about your experience and education to land a job, lying during an interview process – and even creating fake documents for work.
Safety is critical
Professional engineers are responsible for much more than preventing illegal activity. They have a duty to put public safety ahead of everything, including their career or the profitability of their firm.
Public trust is the foundation of engineering
All engineering work is built on the premise that the public’s safety is placed above everything else. Engineers should retain the public’s trust by practicing ethics in all engineering work.
The basic ethical standard requires engineers to make every decision, which affects their business and profession, based on what is right for society rather than selfishly seeking personal gain or prestige at the expense of others.
Honesty in all transactions
Some of the most common ethical issues are acknowledging mistakes, avoiding conflicts of interest, and being honest with clients, the public, and your employer.
There may not always be one simple answer. Some situations require further discussion before any decisions should even take place. This might include accepting responsibility for the mistakes of others if your actions caused or contributed to those decisions.
Causes of Unethical Behavior
The causes of unethical behavior are varied and complex. Employees may fail to behave professionally or ethically for many reasons.
The lack of a code of ethics is one reason employees fail to behave professionally and ethically. When there isn’t any guidance on what is expected and how they should behave, employees are more likely to engage in unethical behavior.
Read my article on Engineering Code of Ethics to get a better understanding of their importance.
- Fear of punishment or reprisals
- Unprofessional behavior observed among colleagues
- Toxic culture in the workplace
- Unethical leadership
- Unrealistic and conflicting guidance
Ethical behavior in the workplace is a vital part of engineering. Engineering ethics are an integral part of professional responsibility and engineers must be committed to upholding ethical standards at all times.
This blog post discussed how important it is for professionals to behave ethically by following their company’s code of conduct, using rational decision-making skills when faced with difficult decisions, maintaining confidentiality about sensitive information, practicing honesty and transparency as well as avoiding conflicts of interest that could undermine one’s integrity or reputation. In addition this article discussed that employers should also provide training on ethics so employees know what they’re expected to do if they come across unethical situations within the company or community during their everyday work life.
As you can see there are many ways companies can reduce unethical behavior and promote ethical actions within the workplace.