The Ethics Of Harassment, Bullying, Bribes, And Whistleblowing In The Workplace

Different Facets of Harassment in the Workplace

1. Harassment refers to different facets of bullying, including incivility, victimization, social undermining and abusive supervision. All of these types of harassment result in negative interactions inthe workplace related to harm and spiritual pain(Neall & Tuckey, 2014). Although, they are not related to the legally protected issues like sex and race. Harassment could be considered as a collective construct that accounts for the exposure to cases of victimization (Samnani, 2013).

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Bullying inthe workplace is considered a repeated unethical behaviour and unfavourable treatment of a staff member by another at the workplace. This behaviour also includes actions that belittle others through rudeness, threats, violence, sarcasm and humiliation. Bullying is undertaken by the person who wants to maintain his control and power. It leads to many negative outcomes for the individual and organizational levels. It represents a major ethical problem in modern organizations. The superiors are used to harm their subordinates which are unfairly treated. Organizations promote for their code of ethics as a corrective action to the bullying behaviour. They aim to maintain good relationships between the staff members and lower the pressure and stress (Boddy, 2011).

The case of Origin Energy unethical behaviour of ignoring the coal seam gas wells provides an obvious example of the unethical and illegal behaviour by the company management. The company caused several unethical and illegal incidents in both Australia and New Zealand. The coal seam gas wells have been leaking for more than a decade without any official or legal action against it from the organizational management, the government or the NGO’s. The first whistleblowing was initiated by Sally McDow, the former senior manager of compliance at Origin. She launched the incident that unveiled the illegal cases, including the bullying culture within the organization. The staff was physically intimidated and abused when any of them tried to report a serious illegal case or activity. Many of them left the organization for this reason when they were punished after raising the illegal cases to the managers (Slezak, 2017).


Boddy, C. (2011). Corporate psychopaths, bullying and unfair supervision in the workplace. Journal of Business Ethics, 100, 367–379.

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Neall, A., & Tuckey, M. (2014). A methodological review of research on the antecedents and consequences of workplace harassment. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 87, 225–257.

Samnani, A. (2013). The early stages of workplace bullying and how It becomes prolonged: The role of culture in predicting target responses. Journal of Business Ethics, 113, 119–132.

Slezak, M. (2017, Jan. 26). Origin Energy ignores coal seam gas well leaks, whistleblower says. Retrieved from The Guardian:

2. Every employer has moral duties that should be respected towards his employees. In return, the employees also should act in amoral way towards their employers (Georgescu & Bosca, 2013).

Sometimes organizations are making structural changes like mergers and acquisitions in order to reform their financial and managerial positions in the market. These policies involve changes in the managerial and staff levels, some employees might lose their jobs as a result of these changes(Yerby, 2013). The employees should be fairly treated in such cases and should be compensated for their work period. They should have sufficient notice period to prepare themselves for another job opportunity. Also, they should get a severance pay. They should be notified in a decent way not a blaming way and the due process should be followed. The real reasons behind the dismissal should be clarified and it is better that the dismissal process goes in graduated steps. The private dismissal by taking the legal actions is better than the public dismissal that leaves a negative impact on the employees’ morals (Hartman, DesJardins, & MacDonald, 2014).

The case of McDow of Origin Energy shows that she was dismissed as a punishment for her courage of whistleblowing the illegal and unethical activities of the company. Sally has the right to be questioned if she was mistaken or raising an issue with insufficient evidence. But because the company’s board agreed to do illegal activities for years, they severely banished her. Although she has the right to be informed of the decision before its execution with a sufficient period of time, she has to be compensated and she should be informed of the reasons for the dismissal. The action of the board was very severe and harmful and against the laws and the ethics (Slezak, 2017).

Bullying and its Consequences


Georgescu, S., & Bosca, L. (2013). Manament’s duty towards employees: A business ethics approach. New Management for the New Economy, (pp. 158-164). Rumania.

Hartman, L., DesJardins, J., & MacDonald, C. (2014). Business ethics: Decision making for personal integrity & social responsibility. USA: McGrow-Hill.

Slezak, M. (2017, Jan. 26). Origin Energy ignores coal seam gas well leaks, whistleblower says. Retrieved from The Guardian:

Yerby, J. (2013). Legal and ethical issues of employee mentoring. Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management, 1(2), 44-55.

3. There are some events where employees take bribes for their illegal performance or do some activities that contradict with their work contract or the purpose they were hired for. It takes the form of money, preferential treatment or gifts. The kickback is a certain amount of payment to a person who is able to control income resources.Both bribes and kickbacks are illegal or immoral that other people can notice and get evidence of them. These people use the whistleblowing to inform the public or the governmental agencies about such illegal practices. The danger of these practices is that they cause unnecessary harm, violate the human rights, illegal, immoral and act against the organization’s purposes. People who whistleblow do this to satisfy the public interest and show their shared responsibility, act according to their professional responsibility, promote integrity at the workplace and act according to the organization’s best interest(Lavena, 2016).

In order to achieve its moral targets, whistleblowing should stem from the appropriate moral motive, comes after using the internal channels of announcement, should be provided based on evidence that guarantees its success and it should be carefully managed in order not to yield adverse effect. The organizational supportive culture that allows suitable whistleblowing procedures and policies is highly supportive. Although, in certain cases, the whistleblowing could be against the social interest or organizationally dysfunctional, for example raising, an issue to the media without taking the official actions within the organization (Lewis, 2011; Vandekerckhove, 2016).

Sally followed the official sequence of whistleblowing, she started with the internal official escalation of the incidents. She presented 120 pages of evidence-based report to the chairman of Origin’s board. But the top management of the company acted against her and covered the illegal incidents. In this case, it is Sally’s right to raise the issue to the public awareness. Her rights are protected under the whistleblower provisions of the Corporations Act. Also, the board decision on her dismissal is considered a violation of those provisions (Slezak, 2017).


Lavena, C. (2016). Whistle-blowing: Individual and organizational seterminants of the decision to report wrongdoing in the federal Ggovernment. American Review of Public Administration, 46(1), 113-136.

Lewis, D. (2011). Whistleblowing in a changing legal climate: is it time to revisit our approach to trust and loyalty at the workplace? Business Ethics: A European Review, 20(1), 71-87.

Slezak, M. (2017, Jan. 26). Origin Energy ignores coal seam gas well leaks, whistleblower says. Retrieved from The Guardian:

4. The AAA ethical decision model goes through seven steps according to Al-Taweel, (2015) and Slezak (2017), it could be applied to the ethical case of Sally as follows:

  • To gather all of the possible information about the dilemma, the misunderstanding could lead to wrong analysis. The questions that require answers are Who? What? Where? When? and How?. Sally already gathered the evidence and outlined a big number of incidents where Origin failed to comply with the regulatory requirements. Also, Origin failed to report the incidents internally through the official systems or to the regulators.
  • The primary stakeholders should be listed and the possible impact of the whistleblowing on them should be indicated. The ethical issues should be defined, alternative and corrective actions should be clarified in terms of rights, principles, duties and The stakeholders of Origins are the CEO, the business owners, investors, customers, distributors, suppliers, employees, the government and the society.
  • The organizational norms, values and ethical principles should be identified, including the professional code of conduct. It seems that Origin has a miscode of conduct, it finds it betternot to comply with mandatory legislations for its high cost. The company finds it is better to pay fines if they were imposed than to comply with the regulatory obligations.
  • The ethical alternative actions to solve the problem should be defined. Following a serious explosion in the Beharra Springs Redback South Well in 2013, Sally assures that 60 senior managers reported that this incident was the worst. The explosion could have caused more harm. The alternative solution to such huge incident is that the management devote efforts to such ethical issues and the auditors should be honest and fair in the figures and calculations they present to the board and to the government. Also, it is better to comply with the regulations.
  • The alternative course of actions should be judged by the decision maker to assure their compliance with the values. Both of the two alternatives are legal and comply with the ethical values.
  • The positives and negatives of each alternative should be evaluated in the short-run and the long-run. Both of the two offered alternatives areeffective in the short and long run. The company should sacrifice huge monetary gains to maintain its wells and become socially Also, the managers and auditors should follow the legal rules and provide real official reports internally and externally.

If the decision maker could not reach the appropriate decision, he should compromise the positives and negatives of each course of action and select the best alternative. In the case of Origin, the decision maker should start with maintaining the wells and complying with the regulations.

Ethical Issues of Bribes and Kickbacks


Al-Taweel, L. (2015). Developing Rest’s model to examine the relationship between tthical accounting education and international education standard 4(IES 4) principles. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 6(11), 8-17.

Slezak, M. (2017, Jan. 26). Origin Energy ignores coal seam gas well leaks, whistleblower says. Retrieved from The Guardian:

The ethical theories that interpret human activities

The ethical theories differentiate between two distinct types, the consequentialist or teleological and non-consequentialist or deontological theories. According to Pettit (1989), as cited in Gluchman&Šva?a (2013), the consequentialists and deontologists share the theory of good value, but they do not share the theory of the right. The consequentialist promotes for the individual beliefs and oneself values that he chooses. From another side, the non-consequentialists claim that individuals should promote values regardless of their personal benefits. They are objective and do not seek to be self-honouredfor promoting such values.

According to McNaughton and Rawling, as cited in Loi, Lam, & Chan (2012), use the value of honesty to distinguish between values promoting and honouring. The value of honesty refers to the individual honesty in life or the non-consequentialists. But the consequentialists will choose promoting if they were to choose between honouring and promoting. The egoism concentrates on the individual promotion that is mainly performed in the senior managers’ behaviour and some of the employees. They usually have excess self-confidence. On the contrary, utilitarianism believes that goodness is for the collective good. The justice theories promote for fairness for all, the distributive justice refers to equal treatment for people doing the same effort and the same performance. While the procedural justice is about following the agreed processes.

According to Wulfson (1998), as cited in Odhiambo (2010), the top management should participate in creating an ethical climate and should be involved in the ethical practices to be able to influence the employees’ behavior. This means that the top management is responsible for creating concise, clear and coherent procedures aligned with the organizational code of conduct. The leadership plays a major role in maintaining ethical enforcement system. It is very important to leaders and employees to adapt to the ethical codes of conduct in the contemporary organizations. The codes of conduct are developed to prevent the anticipated certain behaviors, including bribery, conflict of interest and inappropriate actions. Publishing the code of conduct leads to creating a values-driven organization. It deals with the organization’s values, business standards, relationships with the society and employees’ commitment.

The case of Origin reveals that one the offshore gas well in New Zealand waters has not been maintained since 1993. It was accused of leaking oil and gas into the ocean and no management or senior leadership have never interfered to stop this crisis (Slezak, 2017).

Importance of Whistleblowing in Detecting Unethical Behavior

According to Nazari, Emami, &Shakarbeigi (2012), it is important that organizations detect unethical behavior with in-depth investigations that require:

  • Detailed auditing of the organization accounts, operations and records
  • Access to information
  • Wide scope of the examination
  • Getting written statements and conducting investigations and interviews.
  • Making analysis and performing comparisons
  • Gathering information from external resources.

Whistle-blowing and reporting

Whistleblowing is among the most effective ways of detecting the unethical and immoral behaviour. It is also considered the least expensive resource of unveiling the unethical activities within organizations.Incorporating it in the internal process of selecting anonymous employees to report of the unethical activities is a good method of detection. Establishing a reporting hotline is an effective process that allows employees to report the bullying and harassment activities and cases, illegal actions by some people including bribes and knockbacks. In some cases, the supervisors are the cause of the misconduct, which is against the normal rule of reporting the unethical suspect to the supervisor. This makes an anonymous reporting system a good method of encouraging employees to report the evidence-based cases of misconduct. It could take the form of a confidential drop box or P.O. Box. It is also important that organizations build measures to make sure that the employees are aware of the process of reporting the illegal or unethical incidents (Vines et al., 2013). The case of Origin shows that the supervisors did not report the incidents of contamination of aquifers, spills of radioactive materials or leaking oil and gas in the ocean. Moreover, McDow was asked not to mention details about such incidents in her whistleblowing audit reports. Which is considered a bullying activity from the top management against her that led to her dismissal (Slezak, 2017).

The organization could start with developing a policy that requires the employees to report the misconduct through an established procedure of reporting. The legal professions are preferred to be responsible for creating such a mechanism to ensure its compliance with the local laws. This procedure should be promoted to the employees to increase their awareness of its importance through different communication channels. It is recommended that this policy is disseminated on the organization website to facilitate the employees and other stakeholders’ access to the material (Winrow, Tessema, & Miner, 2012).

The Origin case shows that significant gaps were detected in the monitoring reports of payment of gas royalties to the Queensland state government. Which means that corruption pervades across the company and the staff was bullied in order not to report the incidents. The Queensland government lost tens of millions of dollars of revenue that it could have got if a suitable anonymous communication policy was adopted and the employees were encouraged to report such incidents (Slezak, 2017).

The ethical decision-making approach to be applied

Deontology is the best ethical decision-making approach to be applied. It argues that every individual should act ethically and respectfully to others’ rights (Kujala, Lamsa, & Penttila, 2010). Creating a successful ethical framework should be created at the start of the business.The most important values that guide the organization to achieve better outcomes should be written. The chosen values should respect the human life, avoid any harmful actions, promote for honesty, equality and fairness. The organization should be subjective towards its organizational values and standards. The conflict of interest should be discussed and the daily practices should stress the ethical constraints. These constraints should be involved in the organizational policies, conducted by the authority and incorporated in the corporate structure. Also, it is important that the system is activated in a way that allows the whole organization to follow the same certain principles. This means that the system should be applied to the organization stakeholders, including the people who developed the system. This ethical policy helps in ensuring a greater understanding of the organization (Rogerson et al., 2011).

The deontology and ethical theories focus on doing ethical and good activities for the wellness of the majority of people. All of the organizational managerial levels should be involved in the ethical framework, including the CEO’s, business owners and the executive board members. It is recommended that the organization operates objectively through the incorporation of the ethical policies and procedures that represent the practice of the business. It is extended to controlling people who have different views and to the customers who first need to buy the organizational philosophy before they buy its products (Eldo & Gianmarco, 2017).

The employer should identify the organization stakeholders and catalogues the different options with their impact on each group. The employer should try to limit the negative impact of dismissal and offer the employees the departure with dignity. He should act honestly and forthright and transfer appreciation and good feelings to employees that will be negatively affected. The legal rules should be followed and the dismissal decision should be well planned in order not to affect the work process or oppress the employees. The employer should take the dismissal decision based on the clearly defined criterion that should be neutral and fair to keep the employees’ rights (Yerby, 2013).  


Eldo, F., & Gianmarco, F. (2017). Ethics and deontology in business. Austin Journal of Business Administration and Management, 1(2), 1-3.

Gluchman, V., & Šva?a, L. (2013). Ethics & bioethics. University of Prešov Press, 3(3-4).

Kujala, J., Lamsa, N., & Penttila, K. (2010). Managers’ moral decision-making patterns over time: A multidimensional approach. Journal of Business Ethics, 1(100), 191–207.

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Odhiambo, O. (2010). Leadership factors influencing employee workplace behavior: A case of municipal council of Kisumu. Kenya: 

The University of Nairobi.

Rogerson, D., Gottlieb, C., Handelsman, M., Knapp, S., & Younggren, J. (2011). Nonrational processes in ethical decision making. American Psychologist, 66(7), 614-623.

Slezak, M. (2017, Jan. 26). Origin Energy ignores coal seam gas well leaks, whistleblower says. Retrieved from The Guardian:

Vines, J., Clarke, R., Wright, P., McCarthy, P., & Olivier, P. (2013). Configuring participation: on how we involve people in design. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 429-438). New York: ACM.

Winrow, B., Tessema, M., & Miner, N. (2012). A blueprint to designing the ethics and compliance program for the small business. The Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, 17(4), 3-50.

Yerby, J. (2013). Legal and ethical issues of employee mentoring. Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management, 1(2), 44-55.