To live within a given society is to conform to the ethical components dictated by its governing culture. This same philosophy applies to the organizational environment, whereby workplace ethics is an ever-evolving entity that can be evaluated from a number of theoretical dichotomies.
Cultural values dictate workplace ethics and encourage staff to behave in certain ways. Adhering to these corporate social norms provides a structured path for people to follow; without this man-made construct, companies would have greater difficulty maintaining a socially and psychologically healthy environment. Breaking social norms, such as eating another employee's refrigerated food or undermining a fellow staffer's performance, indicates overstepping very specific guidelines that mandate certain behavioral expectations within that particular workplace. (see ref @3, pg 2, para 1)
In its raw form, utilitarianism might seem to uphold everyone's best interest, but in reality it benefits a greater number of workers while compelling the rest to adapt to majority rule. Since it is highly unlikely to appease everyone in any given workplace, the utility theory serves to satisfy needs of the many over the few, and may even be construed as a form of Darwin's survival of the fittest.
The intrinsic value of good will — behavior that is not dependent upon an outcome to justify its occurrence — is the basis of deontological theory. This Kantian perspective applies to workplace ethics by highlighting man's need to reap a perceived value for doing what's considered a social and moral obligation. For example, an employee helps a coworker reach an important deadline without expecting recognition for his efforts. (see ref #2, para 1)
In stark contrast to deontology, egoism gives people permission to consider only what benefits their personal needs. This theory can create a hotbed of contempt in the workplace due to its lack of social responsibility — being aware of the impact your actions have upon the workplace as a whole. Ethical egoists believe that no reasoning can overrule what is otherwise the moral and righteous actions all human beings are expected to uphold. (see ref #2, para 3)
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