Many people strive to act with honesty and integrity. Life, unfortunately, is riddled with situations that test your ethical fortitude. Nothing can test your dedication to living an ethical life faster than some American workplaces. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger follows a young professional (Andrea Sachs) as she navigates an office culture that encourages employee dishonesty and corruption.

Identifying a Corrupt Workforce

Often the corruption within an organization can be identified within the first week or so. In the case of The Devil Wears Prada, Andrea gets the first sign that her ethics will be tested when the woman training her explains the unofficial sick day policy adopted by many of the employees.

“If you have to be out, and you never will, but just in case something really awful happens, you’ll just give me your card, and I’ll swipe it that way you’ll still get paid for all the days you miss even if you go over. You’ll do the same for me. Everyone does it.” Emily Charlton, The Devil Wears Prada

The false wage claims were only one signal of an unethical workplace for Andrea. Throughout the story employees at Andrea’s work make-off with designer clothes, apparel, and make-up without the permission of management, something that Andrea herself eventually takes part in.

Here are a few different clues that, like Andrea, your workplace culture might be rife with unethical behavior that will tempt you:

  • Minor or major rules are broken by senior employees who should know better.
  • Co-workers regularly lie about their work flow.
  • Employees are secretive about their actions.
  • Time spent at work, on break, or on tasks is improperly reported.

How do you steer clear of the temptation to fall into unethical work habits? Oliver Sheldon, an assistant professor at Rutgers Business school, who specializes in organizational behavior and psychology, offers two factors that can help you be more ethical in Anticipating Temptation May Reduce Unethical Behavior, Research Finds.

What does the paper suggest? Sheldon found that individuals “who anticipated a temptation to act unethically were less likely to then behave unethically, relative to those who did not.” In order to steer clear of unethical behavior, individuals should regularly identify what situations might tempt them to engage in unethical behavior.

Simply identifying temptation might not be enough. Sheldon also found that the ability of individuals to act ethically might be dependent on the individual “identify[ing] an unethical act as having the potential to jeopardize their self-image, integrity, or reputation.” As a second step, you should identify every possible negative impact the unethical action can have on your professional and personal life.

So why does workplace corruption matter from an individual standpoint? Why shouldn’t you cave to the corrupt company culture? As Sheldon suggested, let’s forget about integrity, moral fiber, and all sense of cultural acceptable decency for a minute. Here are a few less altruistic reasons not to cave to a corrupt company culture.

  • You might not be able to afford to lose your job. Employee theft (of time and products) lead to “33% of business bankruptcies.”
  • The business might choose now to begin monitoring employees more aggressively. Not engaging in the practice covers your own back.
  • Stealing from your company could lead to a lawsuit and prison.
  • Stealing from your employer might become a habit you can’t shake when you pursue another job.

Ethics can be difficult to maintain in a company culture that allows employee corruption to flourish. In order to prevent yourself from walking down that that devilishly tricky path, you should identify what types of temptation you will face and how that temptation will affect your life personally.

About the Author: Samantha Stauf is a regular contributor for She enjoys writing about all things career and helping others find careers they’ll love.