Why ethics in the workplace? The reason is that everyone enters the workplace as a human being. But not everyone acts that way, that is, acts humanly. The challenge, then, at virtually every place of employment is to act in ways that are worthy of the human person; ways that are befitting of his or her dignity as a human being. Acts of respect, courtesy and kindness are worthy of a person. Usually, such acts also create a peaceful and, therefore, productive environment.
However, gossip and slander, insults and tactics of humiliating employees, yelling and swearing at them, result in tension, stress and, ultimately, are unworthy of the human person, creating a hostile working environment. Such acts are also below his or her dignity, because they both degrade other employees and the person himself or herself who performs such acts. Recently, for example, I read the following note from one nurse to another:
“Why don’t you do us all a favor + quit! You’re obviously an idiot.”
The ethical problem with the note is that moral acts are self-reflexive, both going out into the external world of persons and coming back into the person who performs such acts, like a boomerang. The nurse, then, in writing that note is being a bully and, at the same time, making less of himself or herself. It is, quite simply, beneath his or her dignity to act that way toward another human being.
Similarly, in the very act of belittling others, poking or making fun of them, a person makes “little” of himself or herself. That is to say, he or she, at the same time, lowers his or her own honor, for it is not honorable to dishonor others. Failing to act according to his or her dignity as a human being, that person needs to be reminded: You are choosing to make a descent, acting sub-humanly, sinking below yourself, and you are better, much better, than that!
Conversely, for example, if I in some way help another person, I ennoble or reflect back to him or her something of his or her value as a human being, and, at the same time, I ennoble myself, reflecting my own value by acting in a way that is worthy of being human. Thus, to make others better is, at the same time, to make myself into a better person.
Therefore, we human beings, in ennobling others, ennoble ourselves, allowing the beauty and dignity of our humanity to radiate from our lives. We humans were put on this earth to make more, not less, of others, including ourselves.