You know the job you’re hired to do and what your company expects of you. You may even get into a legal agreement in some form with your company that covers your obligations for work and its obligations to pay you. Whether it’s written down or not, however, you have some moral obligations toward your employer and your co-workers.
Your first obligation is to the company's well-being. You are free to come or go in America, so if you don’t like your work, you can quit. When you agree to take a job, you’re making a moral commitment to do your best work in good faith. The basic agreement is a day's work for a day's pay. This implies that, within reason, you, as an employee, have an obligation to further the success of the company to the best of your ability, regardless of how you might feel about the job, the pay, the customers or your boss.
Health and Safety
Health and safety in the workplace also carry basic moral implications. Formal guidelines for health and safety exist, many of which are established by law. It’s your duty to know and practice the law. However, your moral obligation to workplace health and safety goes beyond comprehension of the law. It means making an effort to correct dangerous practices and being aware of the probable impact of your actions. Sometimes it just means washing your hands one extra time, taking a reckless co-worker aside to explain health and safety rules, or giving co-workers and customers a heads-up about any possible safety hazards.
You have to follow basic social ethics in the workplace too. This means taking fairness and the needs of others into account during workplace interactions. The moral obligation to co-workers might mean, for example, that you do your best work in a team setting and assist your fellow employees, even if you don't particularly like them. Social morality at work also means that you confront co-workers about unsavory behavior such as bullying or sexual harassment. You also a have moral obligation to your employer to be honest, forthright and respectful, and to notify her about anything she should know, such as illegal behavior at work or about your intention to take a new job.
You have a moral obligation to uphold the law. This can mean different things at different times. For example, if your boss gives you an assignment that you could accomplish more quickly by violating health codes, it’s your duty to do it the legal way, no matter what your boss says. Violations put you and your employer in danger of legal repercussions. It’s also your duty to report legal violations or attempt to amend them, whether they happen at the hands of your co-workers, through your boss or even company-wide. This can be a very tough obligation to uphold in cases where the business itself is breaking the law, as it pits your legal obligations against your moral duty to your employer.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."