When Meetings Become Unethical

While few people love meetings, they’re an inevitable part of doing business. However, it’s always important to understand when a meeting has crossed the line and become unethical.

Not only should people recognize when the line is crossed, but know how to take action when it is. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable during a meeting due to an ethics issue. Reporting unethical behavior early is the best way to stop this trend.

Attempting A Bribe

Whether it’s meeting with clients or fellow co-workers, bribes are always unethical. For instance, a business might offer a new client details on their competition (another client) if they choose to work with them. This is completely unethical as it puts the privacy of the competing client at risk.

Any type of bribe is wrong. When these come up, they should be reported.

Harassing Participants

People don’t always agree in meetings, but it’s crossing a line to start harassing participants in a meeting. Berating an employee in front of their peers, making fun of them or attacking their gender, race, religion or orientation is unethical. It damages an employee’s self-esteem and shows other participants in the meeting that this kind of behavior is okay. It also leads to a cycle of harassment for the singled out employee that could result in lasting mental and physical problems. Creating a clear harassment policy helps to reduce harassment and embolden victims and witnesses to step forward.

Making Advances

Meetings should always be professional. While a more casual atmosphere is okay, it is never ethical to make inappropriate advances. Sexual harassment is always unethical. Inviting an employee into a private meeting and pressuring them sexually in any way is crossing the line. It becomes even worse when the employee’s job is threatened if they don’t comply. Ideally, having a third person in a meeting is always a good idea to ensure there’s a witness.

Talking About Other Employees

Meetings shouldn’t be gossip sessions. They’re definitely not the place to air out an employee’s dirty laundry. For example, a manager might hold a meeting while an employee is out sick. Throughout the meeting, they tell the other employees about the absentee’s personal health condition or joke about terrible they are at they’re job. This encourages unethical behavior and creates a toxic work environment for the victim.

Sharing Proprietary Information

At no point should a meeting become a place to share proprietary information with the wrong people. For example, a meeting where a manager starts discussing the salaries of an employee’s co-workers is unethical. Sharing private information during a meeting with people who shouldn’t have access to it opens up a business for fraud and lawsuits.

Reporting When The Line Is Crossed

No matter what unethical behavior goes on in a meeting, it should be reported. If the meeting didn’t involve HR, report the issue to HR immediately. If an employee doesn’t trust any authority figures, they should use an anonymous hotline provided by the company. This gives them a safer way to report issues without anyone knowing who was responsible.