We all like to think of ourselves as ethical. Whether it’s at work or when dealing with complete strangers, our ethics are essentially what set us apart from other species. But while you might consider yourself an ethical person – you don’t steal, you always remember to hold the door open for the person behind you – you might not have the squeaky-clean ethical reputation that you like to think you have. Here are 10 signs that your ethics may not be as ironclad as you assume.

1. You’re Not Accountable

No one likes making mistakes, but if you find yourself looking the other way when (rightly) accused of doing something wrong, you’re probably causing someone else to be the fall guy. Not cool! Owning up your oops is better form.

2. You Fudge the Definition of Honesty

While you might never, let’s say, lie to a cop during a deposition, you might be fudging the parameters of honesty on a daily basis. Whether it’s a white lie as to why you were late to work or telling someone that you “missed” their ignored call, dishonesty gets the better of the best of us.

3. Your Sense of Fairness is Skewed

In general, humans like to think that they make solid judgment calls. But your sense of fairness and equality is skewed by things like your upbringing, your education, even your geographical location. Think about it: when was the last time you thought someone “deserved” something negative, like a demotion or even spilling a cup of coffee on their shirt? If you see undue mishaps that befall other people to be a good thing, your sense of fairness may be off.

4. You Expect the Worst

When you’re ethical yourself, you hope that others maintain those same high standards. However, consistently expecting the worst – especially without fair reason – could be considered itself unethical, particularly if that mistrust causes you do unethical things, such as installing spyware on a spouse’s phone, for instance.

5. Your Thoughts Don’t Always Become Actions

“I should volunteer more often.” It’s an ethical thought, but without action those ethics stay firmly entrenched in your head. When your good thoughts don’t become ethical actions, can you still be considered an ethical person? Ethics are about a commitment to actively pursuing what’s right, so without the follow through your thoughts alone aren’t enough to cement your status as a morally upstanding person.

6. You Don’t Care

While ethics dictate your behavior, if you simply don’t care about how those actions affect other people, your behavior can become unethical. Demonstrating compassion to all means working toward the greater good, so simply taking an “I don’t care” approach – even when you’re technically being ethical – could defy the purpose of ethics in general.

7. Your Communication is Lacking

Communication is one of the most important facets of ethical behavior. We’ve all plead a bad connection when we didn’t want to talk to someone on the phone, or made up an excuse about why we couldn’t return a friendly email. But while it might seem like no big deal, that blip in communication can put a strain on relationships, and the lying won’t help your ethical scorecard.

8. You Let Someone Else Take Responsibility

Blaming a slipup at work on another person may seem like a knee-jerk reaction to avoid a negative outcome, but it can seriously affect the person who then has to take the responsibility. An ethical person takes responsibility seriously.

9. You Don’t Reward Positive Qualities

Whether it’s loyalty in a friend or honesty in a partner, remember that some positive qualities can be a double-edge sword. Even if someone’s positive qualities affect you negatively – your spouse telling you that, yes, you do look fat in that shirt – they should be rewarded and most importantly, reciprocated.

10. You Overpromise and Underdeliver

It’s fun to be the yes-person, who can always promise the world. Unfortunately, that world can come crashing down when it’s impossible to follow through on those promises with real delivery. Instead, tempering promises can help you offer realistic and ethical expectations as you remain aligned with your own ability to perform and deliver.

Even if you consider yourself to be highly ethical, you may be overlooking some of these relatively minor character traits in your self-assessment. Your values, morals, influences and even atmosphere can dictate the way you act, communicate and respond to people and situations. To truly consider yourself an ethical person, you’ll need to examine your thoughts and actions and see how outside influences are affecting the way you interact with others – and with yourself.

Featured photo credit: Got ethics? via shutterstock.com

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