Many workers spend a great deal of their waking hours in the workplace. For some people, the workplace can become a home away from home as they forge relationships with co-workers, managers and clients. Typically, relationships remain on the professional level. However, other relationships may cross over into less-acceptable territory, posing ethical challenges in the workplace. Ethics activities can help workers analyse workplace relationships to make sure interactions remain professional.
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Workplace relationships can be defined as relationships pertaining to people interacting in a business environment. This might include relationships between co-workers, between employees and managers, between employees and customers or between employees and vendors. Workplace ethics help define a code of acceptable (and expected) behaviour in professional environments. Examples of workplace ethics might include being honest, working hard or behaving respectfully toward co-workers.
Workplace relationships face challenges for a variety of reasons. Some relationships may face strain from differing personalities; for example, after engaging in a casual discussion about politics during lunch two employees might strongly disagree and avoid cooperating in the future. Workplace relationships might also face challenges due to sexual harassment, intimidation or bullying. Co-workers might begin to date; a manager and supervised employee might begin to date. Ethical challenges arise when the nature of workplace relationships begins to affect productivity, cause tension for other workers or violate company policies.
One ethics activity that businesses can use to address workplace relationships includes scenario analysis. During trainings, a workshop leader can read different scenarios related to workplace relationships to the professional audience. Together, staff members engage in a company-wide discussion about how to appropriately address the challenges occurring in the scenario. Similarly, businesses can play video footage of actors performing skits that highlight workplace relationship challenges to facilitate discussion.
Another activity that facilitates ethics discussions includes self-analysis. Companies can distribute private questionnaires and worksheets for staff members to encourage self-examination. Employees don't necessarily need to share the results of their self-analysis, but questions can help them determine whether their relationships have begun to drift into unprofessional territory.
Role-playing is another option for ethics activities to facilitate workplace relationship examinations. Small groups can be assigned scenario descriptions and asked to perform skits before larger groups that identify problematic workplace relationships and develop solutions for addressing these. Different scenarios can be assigned so that when presented together illustrate a broad spectrum of workplace relationship challenges and solutions. Another idea is to assign the same scenario to different groups so that a broader range of possible solutions can be suggested.
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- Good Character: School to Work: Ethics in the Workplace
- University of Georgia: Interpersonal Skills
- "Washington Post"; Workplace Ethics: Inappropriate Relationships; Dr. Ken Siegel, Ph.D.; March 2005
- Alabama Learning Exchange; Tools For Success: A Study in Employer/Personnel Issues; Brenda Dawkins
- "Journal of Administration and Governance"; Sexual Harassment Training at Workplace; Marican Sabitha