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Causes of Unethical Behaviours in Business & Suggestions for Improving Them

Unethical behaviours- Man is predisposed to different behavioural tendencies. On the one hand, man shows love, kindness, forgiveness, cooperation, truthfulness, trustworthiness and working towards the common good of the community in which he lives. However, acts of cheating, telling lies, stealing and other unwholesome behaviours are also noticeable in his character.

Causes of Unethical Behaviours in Business & Suggestions for Improving Them

Some of the behaviours stated above are inimical to the cohesion and progress of society and business organisations while others uphold and strengthen the development of society.

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Given the above, man is therefore challenged to come up with rules of conduct to ensure that members of society, groups or business organizations relate to one another and to institutions in such a way that stated goals are realised. The field of ethics therefore evolved as a means of establishing what is right or wrong in human behaviour in order to ensure a better society.

Definition Of Ethics

The word ethics have been defined in various ways. It is the study of people’s rights and duties, the moral rule that guide people in decision making and the nature of the relationships among people.

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Unethical Behaviours In Business

In essence, ethics means a behavioural code relating to what is right or wrong subscribed to by a group of people or an organization that guides their relationship with one another.

Unethical behaviours and practices in business can be traced to a number of factors. These factors have been outlined and discussed in details in this article.

Causes Of Unethical Behaviours In Business

  • Low income
  • Poverty
  • Poor moral background
  • Weak sanctions

1.) Low Income

It is generally believed that the level of income in Nigeria is low especially in the public sector and in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). The National minimum wage of #18,000 per month can barely afford a decent accommodation, transportation, feeding and payment of school fees for low income workers. Some State governments find it difficult to pay the minimum wage and even owe workers salaries for many months. Besides some fuel stations pay their staff salaries as low as #7,000 per month. Where incomes are low, workers are tempted to engage in unethical practices to augment their earnings.

2.) Poverty

With an unemployment rate of 24% coupled with poor infrastructure in the areas of roads, electricity, health and agriculture, poverty still remains a problem in Nigeria. Although the World Bank (2014) reports that poverty rate in Nigeria dropped to 31% in 2014, the problem is still prevalent. The recent fall in crude oil price, devaluation of the Naira and inflation has reduced citizens purchasing power thereby creating poverty especially in the rural areas. Lack of money and poor living conditions can result in unethical practices in order to survive.

3.) Poor Moral Background

Ethical conduct to a large extent depends on the moral values of families. Children growing up are affected by the kind of attitude and behaviours exhibited by their parents. Where children observe their parents telling lies, offering bribes and cheating they can quickly imbibe such acts and see them as normal way of behaving.

4.) Weak Sanctions

Ethical misconduct and malpractices will thrive in an environment where there are no sanctions or weak punishment for offenders. This factor represents a major reason, for widespread unethical behaviour in Nigeria. It is a common practice for traffic offenders and tax evaders to offer bribes to law enforcement agents an are thereafter let off the hook. Cases abound of highly placed individuals in society who commit offence and go unpunished.

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Consequences Of Unethical Behaviour

The implication of unethical behaviour for a country is negative image which does not augur well for international relations and businesses.

Unethical practices can cause income inequality by concentration unearned wealth in the hands of a few. This is capable of breeding unemployment, crime and insecurity in a country.

Organisations risk low employee morale and even sabotage when issues relating to employment, promotion and compensation are not based on merit but on “god-fatgerism” religion, ethnicity or alumni relationship.

Companies that are found to be unethical in their operations, can have their license revoked, fined, shutdown and in some cases acquired by the government. For employees, it can be dismissal or imprisonment. On the other hand, organizations that operate on high Ethical standards are likely to gain the trust of their employees and retain the loyalty of their customers.

Suggestions For Improving Ethical Behaviour

Improving ethical behaviour can be achieved by adopting the following measures:

1.) Code of Ethics

It is a formal statement indicating an organization’s basic values and moral rules it expects its members to abide by. The code states the standard of behaviour required of employees in different areas of a company’s operations.

It enables members of staff to know the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of the organization thereby enabling them to make sound decisions when confronted with an ethical dilemma. It is important that the code of ethics should be unambiguous to avoid confusion and different interpretation.

2.) Sanctions

Using sanctions to improve ethical conduct reminds employees that there is punishment for deviating from company rules. They argued that sanctions would deter ethical misconduct while not applying same would encourage it.

Nigeria continues to rank high in the global rating of corruption because unethical behaviour is rarely punished at the upper class of society in order to serve as a deterrence to others.

3.) Leadership

Leadership plays a key role in upholding ethical standards. In the first place subordinates look up to their leaders for direction. It is the leader who creates a vision and sets the moral tone for the followers. As a result, the behaviour and utterance of a leader will determine the extent to which ethical standards will be upheld by subordinates. A leader who comes late to work, tolerate shoddy jobs and turns a blind eye to unethical practices will in no time see these traits manifested in the behaviour of subordinates.

4.) Employee Selection

Ethical standards can be enhanced when at the point of employment or appointment for political office, candidates are thoroughly screened to ascertain their level of honesty, trust and overall integrity. The Selection process properly carried out through interviews, test and background checks will go a long way in appointing ethically sound candidates.


An experienced blogger whose top aim is to share knowledge and give out information.

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