The Ethics Corner - April 27, 2016

The Ethics Corner

It is the policy of Jefferson Lab that certain rules and regulations regarding ethical conduct are necessary for the effective operation and optimal performance of JSA. Here at Jefferson Lab, ethics is highlighted through the Annual Standards of Conduct & Code of Ethics training. We also have policies that define acceptable behaviors for all employees, users and guests, but what does it mean to have an ethical culture?

At Jefferson Lab, an ethical culture is more than policies, a ‘statement’ from the Lab Director, or our Code of Ethics. In fact, it can be a hard thing to measure. It’s more about how things work at the lab. Simply put, it’s how we talk to one another, interact with management, users and customers, how we make decisions and go about getting our work done.

An ethical culture at Jefferson Lab should lay the groundwork for an employee to make the right decision when faced with a questionable or difficult situation. Line management is a critical component in setting the examples of ethical behavior and reinforcing our culture. If management does not behave ethically, or acts contrary to the Lab’s stated policies, this can result in a loss of trust and negatively impact morale. Nevertheless, every employee at the Lab, not only management, plays an important role in fostering an ethical work environment.

Click here to read the Lab Director's remarks on Ethics.

It’s easy to think if we’re confronted with a situation, we would recognize the right and ethical choice. However, too often, well-intentioned people can make one or two bad decisions and the situation spirals out of control.

So you might be asking yourself, “What does this mean for me? How can I, as an individual employee, “do the right thing” and promote or support an ethical culture at Jefferson Lab?”


Beware of Ethical Traps

Conflicting Goals

If forced to cut corners to meet goals that seem unachievable, employees can feel at odds, pressured to compromise standards, and even lose trust in management. If it doesn’t seem right, you have responsibility to say something; others might feel the same way. Next-level management, the Associate Director or Department Head or Human Resources are all avenues available to employees to express their concerns.


If the basis for your decision is “Everyone else is doing this,” this may indicate a questionable approach that undermines doing the right thing.

Legal, or not?

Does the action you are considering violate any laws or regulations? If no laws are being compromised, what about the Lab’s policies or Standards of Conduct? Just because a certain action isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it may not be unethical or in violation of professional standards.


When questionable actions are ignored by others, it can snowball into bigger issues and lower the threshold for standing up and doing the right thing. Further, management sends a message that doing the right thing isn’t important to the organization.

Like many situations, hindsight often makes difficult scenarios and eventual decisions seem obvious. As we approach our daily activities, the ethical traps referenced above as well as the Lab’s policies and procedures should encourage each of us to slow down and carefully consider all the information we’re presented with before making a decision. And as always, when in doubt, ask someone or use the Employee Concerns Hotline to report a concern.

My intent with this note is to have you pause and think about how you’re approaching your work or interactions with others, so that individual behaviors are aligned with the Lab’s organizational values. The Lab is committed to creating a culture of awareness and ongoing dialogue about the importance of ethics in the workplace. If after reading this, you have questions, I invite you to contact me to discuss.




Rhonda Barbosa, Ethics Officer/HR Director



Olsen, Stephen D. (Sep. 2013). “Shaping an Ethical Workplace Culture.” SHRM Foundation.