Lately the news has been filled with alleged ethical violations among government officials, and whether such acts have crossed any legal lines.

The idea that people should behave ethically at work — whether in the private or public sector — isn’t novel. Hundreds of policies, codes of ethics and codes of conduct fill human resources files. And yet, lapses in workplace ethics occur daily.

Sometimes they’re big, as when a former Hewlett-Packard CEO lost his job due to a relationship that created a conflict of interest. Sometimes they’re small, as when a co-worker uses the last bit of toilet paper without changing the roll, spends hours on a work computer checking Facebook, or claims credit for — or even fails to acknowledge — another’s work.

A human resources website, thebalance.com, says “... all employees have the opportunity daily to demonstrate the core and fiber of who they are as people. Their values, integrity, beliefs and character speak loudly through the behavior that they engage in at work.”

People of faith, especially, should be sure their values, integrity, beliefs and character are reflected in how they deal with others. Leaders who are religious, especially, should understand the importance of ethical behavior.

Studies show that a lack of trust in many workplaces can be traced to leaders who don’t clearly identify and demonstrate their values. Merely talking about values without demonstrating them will damage trust — possibly forever, according to Trust Rules: The Most Important Secret by Dr. Duane C. Tway. But leaders who exhibit ethical behavior powerfully influence the actions of others.

Those of us who are Christians often lament the “dislocation of the church as a privileged voice in society.” But perhaps we should see instead “an opportunity as well as a challenge to gain a hearing among competing voices,” according to a review of Paul Jersild's Spirit Ethics: Scripture and the Moral Life. After all, Christian ethics aim to approach the moral life from within a life of faith.

Sharing the faith, hope, love and energy of Christian ethics could be our best witness to those who have no faith. And by doing so, we have the chance to deal with current social issues, personal and public aspects of the moral life, domestic and global issues, and individual and corporate responsibilities. In sum, by acting ethically as individuals, we address the concerns of both church and society.

McNeal is associate pastor for member care and connections at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington. Contact her at christine@stjohnsbloomington.org.

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