Business Ethics: Your Responsibility

Everyone has a responsibility to say something if they see or experience unethical and/or illegal behavior. As leaders, supervisors and managers have even greater responsibility. Leaders are liable for the consequences of ignoring misbehavior. Failing to take action can warp and corrupt workplace cultures. 

Where to start?

Good leaders demonstrate curiosity, have empathy, and are trustworthy.


  • First, think things through.
  • Ask yourself, “What’s this person’s goal?” “What were they thinking?” 


  • Ask yourself, “Why did they choose this path?”
  • Then, prepare a thoughtful, direct approach to the person.


  • Say something to the individual. Keep a record.
  • In business, if it’s unwise or not effective to approach the person involved in the unethical or illegal scenario directly, go up the chain of command or to the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer (EEO Officer).

 Say “No” with Tact

Most of us wish to avoid starting a discussion with a colleague about their potentially unethical or illegal behavior. Creating a culture with agreed-upon discussion agreements makes this easier. I learned steps from my father for starting this difficult conversation.

4 Steps

Step with examples         Say “No” with Tact
1. Curiosity. Instead of being judgmental, be curious. Ask yourself:

·         What’s this person’s goal?

·         What were they thinking?

·         How can we can fix this?

2. Empathy. Propose an alternate ethical action.

·         I think I understand why you chose this
path …?

·         I have an idea for a better way for your
situation …

·         How about …?

3. Individual Trust. Ask the person’s help and agreement.

·         I really need your help to …

·         I want to make sure we both do the right

·         Will you go with me on this?

4. Organizational Trust. If needed, seek help from the chain of command, Human Resources, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer

·         It’s best to seek help from your supervisor,
manager, HR, or EEO.

·         I’ll call or walk over with you, if you like.








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