Are You Actually Ethical?

By: Olivia Cantor

Are You Actually Ethical?
Image: Tetra Images / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Talking about ethics means we have to include behavior and judgment calls. Do we all have the same definitions when it comes to this intriguing topic? Probably not.

To level off, the dictionary defines "ethical" as "conforming to accepted standards of conduct." That's the working definition when we're dealing with daily actions. Ethics work in tandem with expected behavior and personal judgment. Ethics are all about how we behave and how we regard the behavior of others.

Sometimes ethics and the law intersect. Ever heard of the term "code of conduct," used in fields like journalism or medicine? It's an outline of "do's and don'ts" in the practice of those professions. It's the set of actions that professionals need to abide by. Even if we're not all journalists or medical professionals, we live and work following our specific codes of conduct.

How we respond to stimuli gives others a clue about our ethical standards. Do we buck the system or do we "color within the lines," as they say? There's no hard and fast rule here. Different people will do different things, and yes, differences arise even when there is a code of conduct to follow.

Ready to see where you fall on the ethics scale? Take this probing quiz and find out! 

You saw a guy's wallet dislodge from his back pocket; it fell to the ground without him noticing it. What will you do?
Call his attention to it.
Wait until he leaves, then I'll get it. It looks thick!
Um, not sure. If I pick it up, he might think I took it. Or I'm stealing it? Don't know.
As I always say, men should never put their wallets in their back pockets. See what happens?

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During a visit, your doctor only allows you to talk for five minutes, but you still need ask them about something. Your doctor ends the session anyway. Is this ethical?
I don't think so! Doctors should give better care to patients, right?
Bah, who cares? As long as I'm not paying for consultation time. Will make another appointment.
Depends on the pain issues I'm having at the moment.
What kind of doctor is that? No bedside manners! Someone should reprimand doctors like that!

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The newbie cafe cashier gave you excess change. How will you react?
Smile and return it.
Keep it! Cashier's mistake, not mine!
Like nothing happened. I'll wait and see if the newbie notices it. If not, then bye!
Tsk. Kids these days can't do math well.

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A cousin works as a lawyer on a controversial case. Your relatives urge him to share private details, which he does. Is this unethical?
Very! Information like that is sensitive and should remain private.
Ooh, give me more juicy bits!
If the case concerns a known bad person, then that's fine by me. If it's an innocent person, that's not really fair, is it?
Why are people so gossipy?

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In a line to buy movie tickets, the teenager ahead of you answers a call and steps out of the line. Will you step ahead or leave it vacant for the teen?
Leave it vacant. The teen might come back soon.
As they say, "Move your feet, lose your seat!" Mine now!
I'll move ahead immediately. If the kid comes back, then I'll give them their place back. Fair enough, right?
Why is there a line in the first place? What's taking them so long with those tickets?

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You find a wad of money on the sidewalk next to a garbage bin, and no one's claiming it. Will you pick it up and pocket it?
Legally , it's ethical to do it if no one's claiming it. But I'll leave it in case someone comes back for it.
Woohoo, hashtag blessed! Getting it!
Look around and see if there's a hidden camera crew around. I've seen these things on TV, you know.
Why are people so careless about their money? It's difficult to earn, you know!

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For your gender's restroom, there's a long queue. But there's none for the separate PWD (people with disabilities) one. Will you use that instead, even if you're not a PWD?
No way. It's designated for PWDs for good reason. We should respect that.
I really have to go! Yes!
Well, maybe I can ask the manager if it's OK. Depends on whether I really, really have to go.
What's with the queue? People taking too much time inside! What's up with that?

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Five steps ahead of you, someone's waiting for a taxi, too. But when they wave for one, it stops in front of you. Will you get in, or will you let the other person have it?
I'll wave to them and tell them to take it. It's rightfully theirs.
It stopped in front of me, so it's mine!
Ride fast before they get wind of it! I'm in a hurry, sorry.
Why can't taxis just stop where they're supposed to?

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A convenience store clerk tells you, "Sorry, we don't have enough coins right now. I'm short a few cents for your change. Is that OK?" What's your reply?
Ethically, that's not right. I'll ask them to look for spare change around somewhere. Or give me an equivalent small item similar in price.
"Hey, you scamming me?"
Depends on how fast I want to get out of there. If it's just a few cents, forget it. They can have it.
"You're in a store and you don't have change? What kind of store is this?"

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A techie friend hacked the Wi-Fi password of your neighbor and gave it to you. Will you mooch the "free Wi-Fi" connection?
No way. They're paying for that. I'm not.
Yahoo, free internet!
Let's see first if their connection is faster than mine.
I swear, some people don't know how to make a great password these days.

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In your office, do you purposely ask for two pens so you can take one home?
No. That's still office property. Have to respect that.
Ha-ha-ha, yeah! How did you know?
If it's the good brand, I do that once in a while. Hey, I do office work at home, too, right? So it's just right!
Nah. They use cheap brands. That office is so cheap, I swear.

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During a job application, you accidentally discover that a friend who's more qualified is also applying for the same position. Will you do something about this?
All's fair in love, war and job hunts, I suppose. Let the best candidate win.
I'll drop something juicy about that friend to the interviewer. Have to eliminate all competition here, you know. It's a job hunt.
Maybe sweet talk that friend to back off? Depends on how much I want this job. Or depends on the pay, too. We'll see.
Is this friend spying on me or what?

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You found out that your favorite band's concert date is the same day you promised to report to work for a special project. What will you do?
It's work. I'm legally bound to do my duties there, regardless of the circumstances.
Call in sick, of course! Don't want to miss that concert!
Will buy tickets, then make a brief appearance to work fast, then disappear faster! Good plan, eh?
The universe doesn't cooperate with me most times, I swear.

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A neighbor broke an item they borrowed from you. Instead of confessing, they bought a new one to replace it – but you noticed the difference. Do you consider this an ethical move?
While it's a nice effort, I'd prefer if they came clean about it. Honesty's more important for me. And more ethical, too.
They should've given me a better brand. But that's fine. I think I would've preferred money.
Well, at least I got a new one.
That's the last time I'll lend something to the neighbors!

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A student is rushing to submit a paper and copies from their roommate's paper to save time. Ethical or not?
Never ethical. It's plagiarism. That's clear as day.
That's how us fast thinkers do it! Great, kid!
Well, if it's just that one time. Two or three maybe. And if it's just a small portion? Totally OK.
Students these days are so lazy! It's the internet's fault!

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The grocery bagger accidentally switched your bag with another customer who purchased more expensive items than you. What's the proper thing to do here?
Switch it back. Plain and simple.
Woohoo! I got a good bargain there, ha-ha-ha!
Well, I'll have to see first if their items are of use to me. Then maybe I'll keep it.
Workers are hard to trust these days, too, right? They had one job! One!

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A slow driver taking their time to park their car got cut off by someone else who suddenly swerved in and took their spot. Ethical or not?
Super unethical. Not to mention rude, too! Who does that?
That car should've parked faster. I'd do the same.
See who did the cutting there. It might be someone important. Hard to ruffle those kinds of feathers, you know.
No room for slowpokes in this world, I tell you. Move faster next time!

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The fast-food server gave you the two-piece chicken meal, but you only ordered the cheaper one-piece meal. What will you do?
Ask for what I ordered. I'll return the wrong one.
Yahoo, bonus meal! Will take it!
I'll check if it's the parts I like. I'll return it if it's not.
How hard is it to get that small order right? They had one job. One!

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You and a friend discussed an idea, then you turned it into an article and had it published. Your friend suddenly wants credit as "co-author," even though she didn't write a word; she says it was partly her idea. Your thoughts?
That's totally unacceptable. That's credit-grabbing right there.
Huh? I don't get it. What's her problem?
I'll just humor her and nod. Hard to discuss with this friend sometimes.
Some people complain too much!

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Two people ahead of you discovered that the ATM dispenses extra bills for some reason; they just walked away with the money. Will you do the same?
No way. That's theft!
Of course! Money is money, honey!
I'll have to make sure it's not coming out of my account first. Then I'll have a go at it, too!
That machine might end up eating my money instead! Will use another one. These things malfunction every time, you know.

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A newly hired friend boasted of her employee discount privilege. Another friend dropped by the store to use this discount every single day. Is this right?
No. That's downright abusive.
It's not called a privilege for nothing. Hey, I want my turn for the discount!
I'll check if they have items I want. I want in on it, too!
What companies won't give employees to substitute for real wages, eh? Discount privilege my foot!

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Your roommate deliberately made the pizza delivery guy wait, because they have a policy of giving the food for free if they arrive beyond their allotted delivery time. What's your reaction?
Scold that roomie! That's not right.
Yahoo, free pizza! Let me at it!
You have to admire the scruples of that one.
That pizza company has suspicious policies to begin with. It's like they're saying they'll be late with the delivery, right?

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Certain employees get overtime pay, while others don't. The supervisor made them all work overtime one day for a rush project. Is this ethical?
Not if those without overtime pay won't get paid anything. Everyone needs compensation for extra work.
Never displease the boss, right? If you don't want to get fired, that is.
If that's me, I don't care as long as I'm one of the OT paid ones!
These corporate capitalist structures must go! Down with corporate greed!

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You and your team worked hard together on a project for a competition, but only you got cited when it won. What's your reaction?
Call the rest of the team when I receive the award. It should belong to all of us.
Take the award! That's a sign from the heavens, you know. Some are truly gifted, while some are not.
Well, maybe they just needed to cite one person to shorten the program. You know how these things work.
These award-giving bodies should be spot-on in their research work. So lazy!

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A professor is up for tenure, but colleagues don't like the person. They force the prof to meet extra requirements to make the application hard. Is this ethical to you?
Not at all! They should let that poor prof undergo the proper process for tenure application. No personal feelings involved.
That's their call, you know. No comment.
Maybe there's a reason they don't like that colleague. I'll have to discover more facts first.
Why would anyone want to work full time in an academic institution? It boggles the mind.

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A customer swiftly pockets a small item at the supermarket when the staff gets distracted by another customer. Ethical or not?
Not! That's stealing!
Small items are always fair game.
If it's a cheap one, that's fine. It's cheap anyway.
It's funny how people get so easily distracted these days. It's television's fault. Short attention spans.

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A certain mall hires people temporarily, then abruptly ends their contracts when they're supposed to get permanent employment. Do you consider this unethical?
Highly. Labor rights advocates call this "contractualization." Not a good business practice.
We can't really comment on company policies much, now, can we?
If those workers know what will happen to them there, why work there in the first place?
Corporate greed must go, I tell you. It must!

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Your sibling used an unknown band's music without permission for your YouTube video. When they emailed you to tell you that's unethical, what's your reply?
Apologize and ask them for the best way to fix the situation. Then teach my sibling how to do these things ethically.
They're getting free publicity with my video. Why are they complaining?
If their music is not much of a loss for my video, then I'll let it go. Find something else. Replace it. Easy.
People complain a lot these days.

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In a smoking area, you saw how a smoker accidentally burned the hair of someone beside them with their lit cigarette; the victim didn't notice. The smoker left the scene immediately. Ethical or not?
Not! Why do that? I don't understand people sometimes.
Good for that smoker! "Leave fast" is also my motto in life.
At least there's a new excuse to get a haircut for that one. Hairdo's a bit ugly.
Funny scene is more like it.

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A prolific veteran writer got fired by a magazine and replaced with two new graduates given cheaper salaries. Ethical or not?
It's a tricky situation. But if it's about salaries, the company should have at least respected the senior stance of the older writer. It's unethical and insulting, what happened to that veteran. It's harder to replace them, too.
Policy is policy. No qualms about that.
It's really cheaper to outsource everything these days. I can understand where that's coming from.
Corporate greed! These companies invest in profit, not people. So sad.

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