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Ethics Stress:

Ethical Misconduct and Unethical Decision Making

“You can be unethical and still be legal - that’s the way I live my life.”

- Mark Zuckerberg, Vanity Fair, May 2019

Regardless of Zuckerberg's personal philosophy, it doesn't mean unethical

behavior isn't harming Facebook on multiple levels.

Ethics stress is depicted as the tension associated with making ethical decisions in practice, such as when the course of action is unclear or hampered due to conflicts between personal beliefs, professional or legal guidelines/codes, and organizational expectations (Raines 1994, 2000). Moral distress is the discomfort that arises when one knows the morally correct course of action but is unable to follow through (Jamseton,1984).

Risk Impacts of Ethics Stress Upon Employees

❖ Communication breakdowns

❖ Decreased morale

❖ Burnout

❖ Deteriorating group cohesiveness

❖ Increased absenteeism

❖ Increased healthcare costs including increased worker’s compensation and disability claims

❖ Workplace Safety/higher accident rates

❖ Decreased ability to retain effective personnel

❖ Decrease in quality of employee creativity, efficiency and productivity

Risk Impacts of Ethics Stress Upon an Organization

❖ Higher levels of ethics stress were associated with decreased job satisfaction and increased intent-to-leave (O’Donnell et al., 2008) 


❖ Employees are so concerned with getting ahead and making money that they ignore procedures and protocol

❖ Carelessness and errors resulting in tasks and work having to be done over.

❖ Employees who feel acting ethically and following rules will not get them ahead may feel unmotivated and intentionally decrease performance.


❖ Larger companies may decide that breaking laws and paying penalties and fines involves lower costs than the financial gain made from breaking those laws.

❖ Customers who abandon a company because trust has been broken by its poor ethical practices that were made under pressure will find other products and services to meet their needs.