Do You Abuse Your Leadership Authority in the Office?

Time and time again, we hear about companies paying massive fines to the federal government for legal and ethical violations that got out of hand—JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Chevron, Goldman Sachs, and even Facebook. In fact, according to a 2018 business ethics survey, 41% of US workers said they observed some unethical or illegal misconduct on the job. And how does that happen? It comes from leadership. Here’s how to tell whether you abuse your leadership authority in the office.    


Bad behaviors snowball  


If your company culture tolerates or even encourages, even the smallest misconduct, those unethical or legal infractions will eventually snowball into those headline-making scandals that seem to permeate the news nowadays. If workers break the rules and don’t suffer any punishment, they’ll start doing it more and more, assuming it’s okay, and eventually, it will become contagious among other employees. And you risk that your steadfast, ethical employees will get frustrated and leave the company. Your reputation, productivity, and profitability are all in jeopardy.  


Rules must be enforced.  


As a manager, it’s your job to enforce the rules. If you confront lousy behavior as soon as it happens—either with a talking to or a formal write-up—your employees will understand that unethical behavior isn’t tolerated, they’ll take pride in working for an ethical company, and your reputation will flourish. They’ll respect you as a person of integrity, and they’ll trust your consistency.  


Treat employees with fairness.  


Be a leader and an excellent example of how you want everyone to behave. Treat your employees fairly and consistently. If you treat one employee with favoritism, your other employees will pick up on that. Resentment will build, and they’ll be confused about which behaviors are acceptable and which aren’t. And since more eyes are upon you, you have to be extra careful not to be involved in any misconduct. You have a higher standard because you have a more significant influence on the company culture. If you’re misbehaving, it will trickle down to your employees.   


Teach ethics.  


Use your authority to teach and preach ethics. Have written standards of ethical workplace conduct and provide training on those standards. Provide resources, like a company handbook that your employees can consult. Establish procedures whereby your employees can report potential violations confidentially and anonymously. When you conduct performance evaluations, include a piece about ethics and make sure any proven violators are disciplined. And give your employees to provide feedback concerning ethics.   


Avoid conflicts.  


Sometimes people can get wrapped up in unethical behavior because their goals get confused. If, for example, you press your employees to complete projects on time no matter what, your employees might feel pressured to cut corners or skip specific steps that ensure integrity. Or, if you look the other way on certain unethical behaviors or lower your ethics standards, your employees will assume you don’t care, that everyone’s acting unethically, and that they can too.  


Looking For More Leadership Tips?  

Ethics and values are the backbones of your company. They help define your company culture, affect your reputation, and create consistent guidelines and confidence for your employees. For more tips on how to use your authority to influence ethical behaviors, check out our website at  


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