Professional and Alumni

A Matter of Ethics

on the Job


Developed by Dorothy I. Mitstifer, 2006.


Purpose: This activity will explore the ethical components of one's work life.

Materials Needed:  Sticky notes, Pencils, Flip Chart, 3x5 cards

Detailed Procedural Steps:


Whether you are employed for a part-time job or as a professional, ethical behavior will set you apart and pay benefits over the long term in peace of mind, self-respect, and enduring relationships.

Peace of mind doesn't preclude ambition or desire for material possessions or high position, but it assumes a fundamental foundation of contentment, gratitude, and pride, a belief that whatever one has is enough and an attitude of active appreciation for the good things in one's life.

Feeling successful can generate satisfying emotions of self-worth, but feeling significant -- that one's life really matters -- is a much more potent. Peter Drucker, the great management guru, captures this idea when he writes of the urge many high achievers have to "move beyond success to significance."

The surprise for many is that one of the surest roads to significance is service. It doesn't have to be of the Mother Teresa missionary variety. Parents who sacrifice their own comfort and pleasure for their children are in service, as are teachers, public safety professionals, members of the military, and volunteers who work for the common good.

In addressing graduates, Albert Schweitzer said, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." (Josephson, 2006, 454.2)


  1. Form groups of 5-8 persons (if total group is small, 3-4).
  2. For 5 minutes, discuss ethical behavior you have experienced in a part-time job. Describe the behaviors. Record on sticky notes.
  3. For 5 minutes, discuss behavior you have experienced that was not ethical. Describe the behaviors. Record on sticky notes.
  4. Organize notes on Flip Chart


  1. Assign one member of each group to work with other designated persons to remove duplicates and organize the list for Ethical and Not Ethical Behaviors.
  2. Share the behaviors with the large group.
  3. Self-reflection - Direct each member to write a message (on a 3x5 card) to self that completes the phrase: "I discovered that in the future I want to . . . ."

Synergizing (Facilitator presentation of mini-lecture)


Michael Josephson says that

Among the many things I find distasteful about Donald Trump's show "The Apprentice" is its depiction of the business world as a competitive arena where the only way to succeed is to outrun, outclimb, or outwit others who want what we want.

Sure, there are competitive aspects to getting to the top, but the type of manipulation and short-term thinking that breed success on these sorts of reality shows are liabilities -- not assets -- in the real world.

Indeed, some people do believe that business is basically an amoral survival-of-the-fittest enterprise where traditional ideas of right and wrong are irrelevant and all that really matters is what works. They seize on words like "necessity" and "survival" and view the workplace in purely legalistic and economic terms. This creates the false illusion that the men and women who make daily decisions to advance corporate interests or personal careers are exempt from ethical judgment.

Don't you believe it! Amorality is a myth. Everything we do has moral significance. And regardless of the context, our actions can and will be judged in relation to core ethical values. What's more, these judgments will dramatically affect the formation of character and the way people treat us. People and companies perceived as honest, responsible, and fair generate trust and loyalty, two crucial factors of real success.

There's nothing wrong with striving to get ahead or in wanting the prestige, status, and comforts associated with business success. Yet, in the end, the purpose of our work is not just to make a living, but to make a life. And, when it's all over, we will be judged not by what we have, but by what we have become. (Josephson, 2006, 454.1)


Josephson, M. (2006, 454.1). The competitive myth in business.

Josephson, M. (2006, 454.2). The road to significance.