Life Skills Development/Module Five/Ethics in the Workplace

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Learners will understand the meaning of ethics. By so doing, they approach their roles and responsibilities with the right attitude for building the establishment and society. They should know that ethics and morals focus on the making of choices, the selection of right action that may not always seem beneficial to them but must be made nonetheless. It is in understanding ethics and developing a code of ethics for yourself that you will translate this into the workplace. Ethics afferct our mental health and how we will behave in the work place. Remember that each business place may have its own ethical princples.

Learners Outcomes

  1. Distinguish between ethical and unethical behaviours inthe work place
  2. Develop a personal code of work ethics
  3. Demonstrate the ability to solve ethical dilemmas in the work place.
  4. Analyse the relationship between ethics, job performance, work habits and productivity
  5. Analyse the influence of culture on ethics.

Topic 1: Understanding Ethics


This topic explores ethics in the workplace. You will learn about behaviours that are considered acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this topic, you will be able to:


How is my behaviour?

Find at least 10 pictures of people in different situations. Discuss the behaviours that are displayed. Select 5 ethical behaviours in the workplace. You will need to label the pictures

Your selection may be guided by the following:


Individual work

Group your pictures according to ethical and non-ethical behaviours.

Group work

In groups of four (4), regroup your pictures according to ethical or unethical behaviour. Represent your responses using a T-Chart (give a layout of T-chart). Head the first column with Ethical Behaviour, and Unethical Behaviour as shown in the diagram.

Consider the following questions for individual and group discussion:

What informed your choice/s?

How did you decide on your categories?

Who or what informed your decisions?

Can you categorise your pictures differently?

What compromises were made in sharing and combining your lists?

How did you feel when having to combine all your lists into one.

Discuss your reasoning, analyse the source of your reasoning e.g. who were your source of reference ...grandparents, cousins, politicians, religious leaders, media, peers, teacher, ...


We learn ethical behaviours from the persons and groups we interact with, parents and other family members, peer groups, religious groups,and sectors of societies we operate in. There are some ethical principles which are universal:

However, until you declare it as something you believe in, something you would be willing to die for, something you would cherish regardless of cost, only then can this be reflected in the behaviour you would outwardly show. Your ethical principles need to be nurtured and developed.


I hope you now understand the sources of ethical behaviours such as parents, leaders, and media. In addition, you should be able to identify ethical and unethical behaviours.

Topic 2: Promoting Ethical Behaviours in the Workplace


This topic is designed for learners to become familiar with some ethical principles in the work place. Bear in mind that some workplaces have a written code of ethics while others have an unwritten code of ethics. Regardless, all employers expect behaviour that is considered appropriate in the workplace.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the lesson learners will be able to:

  1. Examine the role of a code of ethics in the workplace.
  2. Demonstrate key components of ethical work place behaviour.

Select 5 ethical behaviours in the workplace.


Brainstorm - using your previous knowledge - what are some of the important behaviours/characteristics that you think an employer would be looking for in a perspective employee.

Set up scenarios using the ethical behaviours listed above. In pairs give student ethical dilemmas of the work place to solve. For example: How would you respond if you were working as a store clerk and saw a friend shoplifting?

  • Would you prevent them from carrying through with their shoplifting?
  • How would you respond to your friend if they pleaded that you play along with them?
  • If they shoplifted despite your earlier intervention, would you report them?
  • How would you respond to persons who claim that honesty is not necessary for getting along in the work place?

There are many ethical stories on the internet.


One 1 In pairs:

Conduct a survey of a business/organisation (i.e. anywhere people are employed) to find out the executive perceptions and viewpoints of ethical behaviours (start with the list you have compiled)

To write your survey consider the following:

  • length and time of your survey
  • concerns such as punctuality, employee misconduct, quitting without giving notice,

personal responsibility, improper use of employees discount, providing high quality work, sexual harassment, confidence. Feel free to add more of your own.

Present your findings in a report format Use your own headings


Two (2) Make a poster or a display board of desirable and undesirable behaviours that you have discovered. Put the display board where it can be easily read.


You will agree that ethics in the workplace is a determining factor for people being able to work together well. You have been engaged in alot of decision making dealing with the application of skills in solving ethical dilemmas. The tasks you have completed will have guided you towards the importance of supporting and promoting ethical behaviour as well as, ways in which you could deal with unethical behaviour.

Topic 3: Workplace Relationships


Workplaces are locations for meeting other people with similar goals. It is, therefore, imperative that we get along with others well. Communication is a great tool for getting to know each other and relating well. Lets take a closer look at the communication tools we use in meeting new people.

Learning Outcomes


Think about the image of how you would like to present yourself to the people in your workplace on your very first day of work

On your first day at work, you will need to do the following:

Remember to stay composed, attentive and show enthusiasm. These virtues will help you develop strong working relations with collegues and supervisors and to sustain your work.


Your culture may have taught you respect. There are a number of ways in which you can demonstrate respect to your workmates. Some aspects of respect link closely with the preknowledge that is covered earlier in this topic. Talking politely, being considerate of others, being sensitive and responsive to people, are just some of the key ways of showing respect.

Case Study

Today Mpho was walking alone to a shopping mall. He met two middle aged-men, who were drunk and were in a good mood for stirring. They blocked his way and began calling him names. Mpho appeared unafraid and calm, realising that to feel otherwise would be of no use. After repeated attempts at trying to anger him, the two men sat down exhausted. Mpho, stayed where he was, and asked quitely and politely, whether they needed any help from him. The men, were at first quite mocking of Mpho and as one stood up to physically try and block Mpho's way, he stumbled and fell. Mpho immediately went to his assistance and helped him to his feet. The second man was watching all this and was asking himself, how can someone be so kind when faced with such meanness. He stood up and Mpho was about to step back thinking, he was coming to cause more problems and was very surprised to find the man holding him and crying over his shoulder. Thank you son, you have shown me what true kindness is all about.

Self Assessment

What values are shown in the case study? How can you apply these values in your work place?

Through discussion, you may have come up with the following:


In the workplace, respecting someone else's 'space' is important. Space can be seen as part of respecting ones privacy. Each culture has its own understanding of privacy and therefore workplaces need to be aware of this. It is therefore paramount that you understand what behaviour illustrates respect for 'space' in the workplace. Think of behaviours, such as speaking quietly while others are working, that support respect one's 'space' in the workplace.


In groups of four (4), share your experiences of situations where you felt your 'space' was not being respected


You are a Human Resource Manager of Company X. Part of your responsibilities involves setting the salary scale for new employees. Two employees have discovered that although they have the same qualifications, and started one year ago, their salaries are not the same. Role play this scenario and come up with possible explanations and solutions.


Have you ever experienced a situation whereby you felt that someone was judging you by your differences such as, your colour, your qualification, your health, your background etc. Find someone to share these experiences with. Talk about how you felt and what you did.


From your sharing, you may have come with the following:

Tools for avoidance

  • Ignore
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Redirect the conversation

Tools for coping

  • Engage intelligently in the discussion
  • Show self control
  • Demonstrate ability to accept differences
  • Be open to other viewpoints


In this section, you learned about important issues in the workplace such as issues of:
  • patience
  • respect for persons and their personal space
  • effective communication
  • transparency and accountability
  • flexibility
  • emotional intelligence

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