What Are the Most Common Unethical Practices in the Corporate World?


Quick Answer

The most common unethical business practices in the world of corporate management generally fall into three categories: mistreatment of employees, financial misconduct and misrepresentation. At the employee level, the most common instances of unethical behavior are the misuse of company time and stealing from one's employer. According to the Harvard Business Review, employee misconduct often results from ill-conceived goals established by management and management's blindness to ethical infractions in light of a positive outcome.

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Unsafe workplaces, the use of child labor in overseas factories, and threats against or termination of whistle-blowers are historically reported examples of unethical business practices. Sexual harassment and discrimination in job assignments, hiring or evaluations or condoning or overlooking such behaviors are equally as unethical. Financial misconduct at the corporate level varies from price-fixing between competing corporations and tax fraud to physicians falsifying Medicare billings or evasion of taxes altogether.

Misrepresentation at the corporate level often takes the form of falsifying product specifications or test results when marketing a product. Similarly, a salesperson may misrepresent a product to make a sale, or a mechanic may complete unnecessary repairs in response to ill-conceived, unattainable goals set by management. Corporate leaders are often unaware of how their actions inadvertently lead to or condone such unethical behavior. As well, many are simply unaware that their business decisions are, in fact, unethical.

If efficiency and a certain profit margin are the only goals considered in decision-making, decision-makers are sometimes blind to the impact that cutting corners has on product quality or consumer safety.

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