Importance of Ethical Behavior in the Workplace (TI)

This pages contains a selection of advice from The Ethics Office at Texas Instruments Corporation.

Article Number 16: Ethical standards play important role in protection of company assets

A good indicator of high levels of corporate, and hence, employee ethics is how well employees protect their company's assets. TIers who take pride in this company's ethical standards reflect that pride in a respect for TI assets.

Employees who are treated with dignity and respect, who take pride in their organization and its ethics, tend to respect the assets of that organization. One of the most evident indicators of the employees' opinion of their organization is their conduct at work.

Employees who have respect for their organization and co-workers will avoid such practices as

  1. Padding of labor charges and expense accounts
  2. Personal long distance phone calls on company accounts
  3. Untidy work areas, break areas and rest rooms
  4. Taking office supplies home
  5. Excessive breaks or sick days
  6. Improper use of copy machines and computer equipment

There are many forms of theft. In addition to lost supplies and equipment, an employee with little self- or organizational pride can subject that organization to losses in time, production, overhead charges, initiative, professionalism, customer respect, reputation, attitude, spirit and drive.

Every TIer can play an important role in creating an environment where people are valued as individuals and treated with respect and dignity, fairness and equality, where people perform with unquestionable ethics and integrity. In such an environment, employee pride blossoms and theft losses disappear.

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Article Number 83: Sometimes the most damaging acts are not the most obvious

Much time and effort are spent discussing those obvious ethical problems and situations. Sometimes, however, our work relationships, our productivity, job satisfaction, and trust in our fellow TIers are damaged by the subtle and subversive games that people play.

Ethical scandals in today's businesses quickly make it to the national spotlight. Almost every newspaper highlights some situation or issue reeking of unethical behavior, questionable business practices, or outright law violations. However, Frank Navran writes in a recent issue of Training and Development magazine that those spectacular scandals account for only about 10% of the business losses attributable to poor ethical behavior.

That other 90% accounts for billions of dollars annually across the U.S. and appear in the way we treat each other when we try to protect our own turf, or get ahead at the expense of others, or do the wrong thing because we believe that is what our company wants us to do. Mr. Navran lists these examples of the "silent saboteurs"

  1. Scapegoating -- blaming others for missed commitments, bad decisions or poor results.
  2. Allowing the boss to fail by withholding information and not pointing out risks.
  3. Budget games -- padding the budget in anticipation of cuts, end-of-year spending sprees to match estimates to actuals.
  4. Overpromising to win a customer, gain support for a pet project or avoid a confrontation.
  5. Turf-guarding -- protecting yourself from losing control or power.
  6. Endless meetings and memos to make sure that you are covered or that you can distance yourself from a bad decision.
  7. Under delivering on commitments because the other person's priorities are not important to you or because you look good by looking better than someone else.
  8. Risk aversion -- not doing what is needed to succeed because you fear the consequences of failure more than you value the reward of success.
  9. Sharp penciling -- fudging on reported results because everyone else does it so you have to do it to stay competitive for pay and promotions.

The cost of these activities is the areas of motivation and morale, stress, quality, turnover, productivity, pride, and customer satisfaction, all of those areas that we want to emphasize in a highly ethical company.

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Article Number 84: Combating the subtle subversion

Much time and effort are spent discussing those obvious ethical problems and situations. There is, however, great damage potential in the subtle and subversive games that people play. Know how to combat the subtle is often as important as dealing with the obvious.

In last article we identified nine examples of what Frank Navran of Training and Development magazine called the "silent saboteurs", those self-serving subtle and subversive games that people play that tend to destroy an organization from within. His research reports that 90% of the business losses attributable to ethical behavior fall within these kinds of practices, and that accounts for billions of dollars annually across the U.S. To bring those numbers closer to home, he estimates that for a company the size of TI, losses resulting in unrealized productivity and profitability due to these behavioral types of problem could range from $5000 to $7000 per employee per year. You simply cannot ignore them. So how do you combat them?

Generally, there are two governing principles in effect here. First is that we tend to do what we think the company, our management, and supervisors want us to do. We tend to live up to their expectations as we perceive them. Secondly, we identify through our work environment and culture what we perceive it takes to be successful and move toward it. Both of these drives are so strong that even good employees are sometimes tempted to follow them even if their choices mean that they violate their basic understandings of what is right and what is wrong.

The key issues here are perceptions and expectations. Problems arise when perceptions are either incorrect or are not in alignment with the TI culture. And the solution centers on proactive communications and candor. The supervisor/manager must take an active personal role in making employees aware of the organization's values and ethics so that they will understand how the organization defines right and wrong along with its goals and expectations. Employees must have a clear knowledge of their organization's ethical standards and equally important, a feeling of management support when they act within those standards. Management must demonstrate through consistent examples their personal alignment with documented TI ethical principles and values, their expectations that employees will do what is right and fair, their support for a work environment that recognizes and respects individual ethical behavior, and their encouragement and support of open communications and candor within the organization.

On the other hand, organizations that squelch the "bad news", that discourage the sincere open discussion and resolution of problems, and make employees fearful of bringing concerns to the attention of their supervisors and managers are very costly. Self-serving people who allow this type of environment to exist, and those who use short-cuts, compromises and half-truths to achieve near-term gains are destructive over the long run. They divide people and organizations into winners and losers, ruining relationships and destroying trust.

Whatever your position is here in the TI organization, I encourage you to continually pursue integrity, openness, fairness and credibility, for they are the vital elements in a high quality, productive organization and the most effective weapons in combating the subtle subversion.

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Article Number 93: More examples of the silent saboteurs

Readers respond with more examples of the silent saboteurs, those subtle and subversive games that people play that damage our work relationships, our productivity, job satisfaction, and trust in our fellow TIers.

Several weeks ago, this article ran several issues on the "silent saboteurs", those subtle games that are so damaging and appear in the way we treat each other, or do the wrong thing because we believe that is what our company wants us to do. You, the readers, responded to those articles more than to any previous article. Consider these additional examples of silent saboteurs, sent in anonymously on the ethics communications line

  1. I've got a secret -- Not keeping others informed of the situation. This can happen at all levels and in all directions.
  2. Credit taking -- Taking credit for something that someone else or another group has done. An example of this might be the weekly report. Are group results being reported as individual efforts?
  3. Lack of recognition -- It is important to let other people or other work groups know that they are doing a good job and that their efforts are appreciated. This could go along with credit taking.
  4. Attention to detail -- This relates to the little things in our lives and in the business of our customers and suppliers. Let people know that a FAX has been sent. Follow through on commitments.
  5. Let people know that you need more time or that you do not fully understand. Don't let people hang by not doing all of your job. Have you as a supervisor ever missed an employee's badge party? How do you think that employee felt?

The cost of these activities is high in the areas of motivation and morale, stress, quality, turnover, productivity, pride, and customer satisfaction, all of those areas that we want to emphasize in a highly ethical company.

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Article Number 110: Performing with unquestionable ethics and integrity

The first of the six corporate principles in the TI Commitment is that we will perform with unquestionable ETHICS and INTEGRITY. Who is responsible to insure that we comply with that requirement?

In everything we do at TI, at every level, in each situation, we must conduct ourselves with unquestionable ethics and integrity. We simply do not have a choice in this matter. TI has always committed itself to conducting its business in accordance with the highest moral, ethical, and legal standards in all fields of activity.

TI managers have a responsibility to see that their employees receive adequate training in the proper performance of their jobs. Their organizations should acquire knowledge about the laws, regulations, contract obligations, applicable TI policies, and procedures and other obligations and expectations. Equally important, managers must set an example through their own style of leadership and always perform to the highest standards of ethics.

But ethical behavior is not just the job of the manager. It results from good ethical decisions, so the responsibility for ethical behavior lies wherever decisions are made. And each of us, regardless of job level, makes numerous decisions each and every day, both on the job and off. The responsibility for the ethical standards and reputation of TI lies in the hands of individual TIers at all organization levels.

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Article Number 143: Sweat the small stuff

Our daily journey through ethical behavior is made of many small steps. Sometimes the small decisions are as important as big ones.

Every day of our lives we are deluged with ethical issues of major magnitudes. Worldwide, financial and governmental leaders are alleged to be involved in misdoings ranging from fraudulent check writing to improper conflicts of interests, from misapplications of power to turning public monies into personal gain. Men running for the U.S. presidency are being accused of ethical misbehaviors ranging from sexual improprieties to military service irregularities. Religious leaders appear to have violated major ethical expectations. Ecological indifferences are left for future generations to repair. All about us are serious ethical violations.

The danger of this notoriety is that we may become dulled to those ethical problems and issues that occur in our everyday lives. We may begin to think of ethical problems only as those which gain international headlines. On the contrary, those ethical issues that should concern us most are those we face everyday... in our homes and in our work place. Good ethics involves you and it involves me, where we work, where we live, anywhere we face a personal decision.

What do you do when the cafeteria cashier gives you too much change? Would you accept a compliment for your work that honestly should go to another? If you would like to have a day off from work tomorrow, will you call in sick or will you take a day of vacation? Do you give your child pencils and paper for school that you brought home from your work at TI? These are examples of personal, daily ethical decisions that reflect just what sort of a person we really are. Whether we make the right or wrong decision, often the only one who knows the truth is the one who makes the decision.

Dr. Mark Pastin of the Lincoln Center for Ethics at Arizona State recommends the test of "turn-about," a test that will help us make the right decision, even when different cultures and scenarios are involved. How would you want to be treated if the roles were turned about, if someone else were making the decision and the results were to impact you? Many of us know this test as the "Golden Rule". It will serve us well, even when no one else is watching.

David Glidden, a philosopher at the University of California, gives us this final thought: Virtue is its own reward and that, above all else, is why we can be optimistic. People who live virtuous lives live better lives and that's that.

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Article Number 144: More of the silent saboteurs

Several months ago in one of our T NEWS Ethics Articles, we asked TIers to submit their examples of the silent saboteurs, those subtle and subversive games that people play that damage our work relationships, our productivity, job satisfaction and trust in our fellow TIers.

Here are more examples.

  1. Nursing a Grievance -- Certainly problems and stress occur in our daily work activities. But how do you address them? Do you allow them to linger and cut into your relationships and your productivity or do you try to resolve them?
  2. Smoke, but No Fire -- There is a vast difference between actions and productivity. Do you know those who make it a point to look busy or talk of all they are doing, yet produce little? Is time wasted in unproductive activities? Are diversions created to mask lack of progress?
  3. Emergency, or Just Poor Planning -- A sign on a secretary's desk stated, "Lack of Planning on Your Part Does Not Create an Emergency on My Part." Can you identify those who allow a crisis to develop before taking action? The price paid for this habit is loss of trust, support and respect.
  4. Robin Hood -- Taking from the rich and giving it to the poor is admirable in the movies, but it is still theft. Taking something that belongs to TI, whether it be an item or time, with the thought that TI can afford it is still theft. Actually, theft from TI is theft from anyone who holds stock in the company or anyone who would benefit from TI's success. And in the long term, theft impacts jobs and productivity.
  5. Pushing the Limits -- I was once told that the minimum must be good enough, otherwise it wouldn't be the minimum. Do you know those who live by that code, who do the absolute minimum to get by? They know what the limits are and are always there. They track their attendance and always hit right at the minimum. They push the supervisor on their work ethic until the supervisor is forced to take action.

The cost of these activities is the areas of motivation and morale, productivity, pride, and customer satisfaction, all of those areas that we want to emphasize in a highly ethical company.

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Article Number 252: It's only a pen

The improper use of TI assets is your main response to our survey question about the most common unethical acts.

In the school principal's office sat a young man explaining to his father why he was in trouble. "Well, Dad, they caught me stealing a pen from the school library." "Why would you be stealing pens?" asked the irate father. "What have you been doing with those pens I bring home from work every day?"

Not long ago we asked you what kinds of unethical acts would you expect to be most common within an organization. We pointed out that we were not asking for confessions or accusations, but rather opinions and perceptions. The answer given most often was theft in the form of misuse of office equipment such as fax machines and computers to the removal of TI equipment and supplies. Every response dealt with small value items, a pen or pencil here, a long distance phone call there, a minute or two of labor charged incorrectly.

Few would argue that theft of company assets is acceptable, or that the improper use of company assets is acceptable. But in fact, when individual behavior, or management style, or perceived expectations prevent company assets from being used properly to the fullest extent of their intended purpose, is that not a form of theft? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce labels this type of theft as "intangible crime".

The insidious danger surrounding intangible crime is that some do not identify such behavior as improper. Rationalizations are simple, such as

  1. It's only a pen.
  2. Nobody will care.
  3. Everybody does it.
  4. It doesn't belong to anybody, it is TI's.
  5. Nobody will find out.
  6. One message comes through loud and clear, both through the survey question and through your contacts with the Ethics Office. Seldom do we see TIers more upset than when they observe another TIer participating in the intangible crimes, the small stuff. They may not tell their co-worker, but they certainly make it clear to us.

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Article number 263: Help on ethical decisions

Most of our decisions have some ethical issues or impact, here are some guidelines that should raise sensitivity and improve our decision-making process.

Over the past several weeks, we have suggested guides for personal decisions and activity, including what we say, how we approach ethical decision-making, and personal character traits. But how about guidance to determine if the decision even has ethical implications?

Labeling a decision as an "ethical decision" may disguise the fact that almost every decision holds some ethical issue or impact. Perhaps a better approach would be to develop an ability to judge the ethical implications. What role do my ethics play in this decision? How do I recognize an ethical situation or problem? What are the warning signs that this may be a tougher decision with deeper issues and wider impact? Here are some guidelines. Not all apply every time, but they should raise sensitivity and improve our decision-making process.

  1. Do I put a monetary value on this decision? Would I make this decision differently if cost were not a factor? Am I putting a monetary value on my ethics?
  2. Do words such as right, fairness, truth, perception, values, or principles appear in my reasoning when I am making my decision?
  3. Do I feel as if I need to search through TI's standard policies and procedures or contact a TI legal department representative for help with my decision?
  4. Do questions of fair treatment arise?
  5. Do my personal goals or values conflict with my professional ones?
  6. Could this decision generate strong feelings or other controversy?
  7. Would this pass the newspaper test? How would I feel if this were to appear in my local newspaper tomorrow?
  8. What does my heart tell me? Do I ponder this decision on the way home?
  9. Do I offer myself excuses such as everybody does it, or no one will find out, or I did it for TI?
  10. Does this decision really need to be made by someone else? Did I inherit it because someone else doesn't want to make it?
  11. How am I going to feel tomorrow if I do this?

If you face a tough decision and you feel as if you need help, there are many places to turn. Your supervisor or manager is generally the best for that is the one who understands your situation the best. But there are other sources of good information...the open door to higher levels of management, the ethics booklet, TI Legal, Human Resources, and your TI Ethics Office. Ask and keep asking until you feel you have a good answer that complies with TI standards. Know what's right. Do what's right.

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More from the TI Ethics Office
  • Help on Ethical Decisions (TI) Advice from The Ethics Office at Texas Instruments Corporation regarding responsibility, accountability, sensitivity, conflict of interest, ethical leadership, trust and respect.
  • Advice from the Texas Instruments Ethics Office These pages contain a selection of advice from The Ethics Office at Texas Instruments Corporation. The advice is that of either TI Ethics Director Carl Skooglund, or Glenn Coleman, Manager of Ethics Communication and Education. The articles are distributed among TI employees via TNEWS. Each of the links on this page takes you to several related TI Ethics Office articles.
Cite this page: "Importance of Ethical Behavior in the Workplace (TI)" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 2/16/2006 National Academy of Engineering Accessed: Sunday, April 19, 2015 <>