Professionals may believe they can maintain an ethical reputation by merely refraining from morally questionable practices: Don’t steal, cheat, or bully others. But this alone is not enough. If a higher-up in your organization is found guilty of unethical behavior, your reputation can become tainted merely because you work at the same place.
Take Enron. The fraudulent business dealings of top executives led to one of the biggest scandals of the decade. Rank-and-file employees lost their jobs, health care and life savings. But on top of all that, many were confronted with another consequence of the scandal: The public perception that any person involved with Enron was corrupt and dishonest, hurting their prospects at future employment. Despite the fact that it was a handful of top executives who were responsible for the corruption, everyone employed at Enron suffered reputation damage as a result — even employees who played no part in the fraudulent behavior that brought the company crashing into bankruptcy.
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