Common Excuses for Unethical Behavior

If you’ve read the October 2017 issue of School Nutrition, then you know two things: first, that ethics is irreplaceable in the school foodservice workplace environment and second, that there is bonus web content on the subject! Our main feature this month (dominating the issue at 19 pages), “Got Ethics in the Workplace?”, gave you an overview of the topic, fleshed out the vagaries and provided several case studies. But our authors, Toni Vega Aiken, SNA senior program manager; Christina Uticone, SN contributing editor; and Patricia Fitzgerald, SN editor, also promised the below listing of common excuses for maintaining a status quo of unethical behavior and how to counter them. Read through to see if you’ve heard some of these before—or perhaps if you’ve even said one yourself?

  1. Everybody does it (we’ve always done it this way).
    • Ethics is about the way things should be not about the way things are.
  2. Who am I to judge?
    • If you cannot distinguish the difference from what is morally acceptable and what is not then there is no difference between Mother Teresa and Adolph Hitler. You must be aware of when conduct violates core ethical values.
  3. I’m not so bad so long as others are worse.
    • Your moral obligations are a matter of personal integrity and character. There is no exemption because other people may behavior in a worse manner than you do. If you lie to a liar, you’re still a liar. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
  4. It’s not my job.
    • Yes, it is! All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. If not you, then who?
  5. Nobody was hurt.
    • The people who play by the rules are always hurt and disadvantaged by those who don’t. You are always hurt when you sacrifice your integrity and character.
  6. I’m only human(I’m not perfect / I’m basically honest / I hardly ever lie / Just this once)
    • If you are lying then you are a liar. You are, or should be, accountable for every choice you make and every action that you take. Remember we tend to judge ourselves by our best intentions and most virtuous acts but we will be judged by our last worst act.
  7. It’s a stupid rule.
    • Typically, if there is a rule, there is a reason. People often think that rules cost them time or money or don’t let them do what they want. But would you want people picking and choosing what they or should not do at work?

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