Previous Main Table of Content Print PDF Next


Dalia Perkumienė
Kaunas University of Applied Sciences, Lithuania

Danutė Kleinienė
Kaunas University of Applied Sciences, Lithuania

Work ethics and working culture are standards or values that are generally based around conscientiousness. Mostly, work ethics is thought to benefit a person morally, thereby, improving his character. Work ethics can include preserving social skills, being reliable and resourceful wherever needed in a work setting. Ethics refers to well-founded standards of the right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Work ethics involves such characteristics as honesty and accountability. Essentially, work ethics breaks down to what one does or would do in a particular situation. The begging question in a situation involves what is right and acceptable, and above board, versus what is wrong, underhanded, and under the table. More and more often the courts receive applications concerning breaches of ethics and working culture, the legislation covering this area is modernized, various conferences and seminars are held, articles about ethics and working culture are published in newspapers and magazines. Conflicts in the work of public officers are also connected with the negative appearance due to its negative impact on the person himself and the people around - customers, colleagues. It also has a negative impact on the efficiency of work, communication, working atmosphere. The article analyses the peculiarities of ethics and working culture in the public sector. The authors have tried  to reveal and evaluate the inherent features of the ethic and working culture of the Alytus municipality' employees.

Key words: working culture, ethics, employees, municipality, public sector.


Many people consider good work ethics to be an intrinsic part of the character of a person. As such, personal ethics can be cultivated, but often it cannot be achieved if the person has no inner desire to accomplish it. Typically, those who feel that they have good work ethics feel a sense of purpose, and do their jobs well. People who have questionable work ethics sometimes find that they have a bothered conscience, and that they do not do their work as well as they could.

Employees working in a public sector inevitably stuck on ethic and working culture problems. Perhaps, even more often that the representatives of other fields, because they are constantly communicating with people, help them solve their problems every day, inform people about governmental decisions (Wagner-Tsukamoto, 2005).

People in every workplace talk about organizational culture, that mysterious word that characterizes the working  environment. One of the key questions and assessments, when employers interview a prospective employee, explores whether the candidate is a good “cultural fit.” Culture is difficult to define, but you generally know when you have found an employee who appears to fit your culture. He just "feels" right.

When having some contact with employees at municipality, people judge the morality and working culture of higher officers and public institution according to their behavior (Chen, 2005). Therefore, the ethic and working culture of municipality employees should be as high as possible. Ethics is important not only in communication with customers (external environment), it is important also internally in the organization, in the mutual relations between colleagues and staff members (Palidauskaitė, 2001; Raipa, 2001).

Ethical problems might cause various consequences. Some of them are solved almost unnoticed; the others have a strong impact on individual persons or organizations. Ethical problems might occur and disappear or have a continuous character.

The purpose of the research is to disclose the importance of ethics and working culture of the employees at the Alytus municipality.

The object of the research is ethics and working culture of the Alytus municipality employees.

The research methods include analysis of the scientific literature and legislation, a survey with questionnaire, statistic analysis of the data, graphical modeling, specifying and summarizing and logical abstraction.


In our everyday life we use such notions of ethics as morality, virtue and other similar notions quite widely. However, not always we think about their content and significance. Sometimes we interpret and use them in a wrong  or inappropriate way, or consider them as synonyms. However, we should not mix up these notions, as ethics is a science; but morality and virtue – the objects of its research (Kulik, 2005).

From a historical perspective, the cultural norm of placing a positive moral value on doing a good job, because work has an intrinsic value of its own, was a relatively recent development (Lipset, 1990). Work, for much of the ancient history of the human race, has been hard and degrading. Working hard - in the absence of compulsion - was not considered as a norm for Hebrew, classical, or medieval cultures (Rose, 1985). It was not until the Protestant Reformation that physical labor became culturally acceptable for all persons, even the wealthy.

The origin of the concept "ethics" goes back to the ancient Greek word "Ethos". At the beginning it meant  "a usual place of living" (in the poems of Homer); later it acquired new meanings: "habits, temperament, custom, character" (Fassin, 2005).

Thus, ethics means moral rules or principles of behavior that should guide the members of a profession or organization and make them deal honestly and fairly with each other and with their customers (Laczniak, 1990).

Using statistical terminology, ethics would be characterized as a latent construct, i.e. something which is not directly measurable, but can be represented or measured through other variables (Schlegelmich, 2001).

The work ethics is a cultural norm that places a positive moral value on doing a good job and is based on a belief that work has intrinsic value for its own sake (Cherrington, 1980; Quinn, 1983; Yankelovich & Immerwahr, 1984). Like other cultural norms, a person's adherence to or belief in the work ethics is principally influenced by socialization experiences during childhood and adolescence. Through interaction with family, peers, and significant adults, a person "learns to place a value on work behavior as others approach him in situations demanding increasing responsibility for productivity" (Braude, 1975, p. 134). Based on praise or blame and affection or anger, a child appraises his or her performance in household chores, or later in part-time jobs, but this appraisal is based on the perspective of others. As a child matures, these attitudes toward work become internalized, and work performance is less dependent on the reactions of others.

Another significant factor shaping the work attitudes of people is the socialization which occurs in the workplace. As a person enters the workplace, the perceptions and reactions of others tend to confirm or contradict the work attitudes shaped in childhood (Braude, 1975). The occupational culture, especially the influence of an "inner fraternity" of colleagues, has a significant impact on the attitudes towards work and the work ethics which form part of each person's belief system.

Being ethical is also not the same as following the law. The law often incorporates ethical standards to which most citizens subscribe. But laws, like feelings, can deviate from what is ethical. Our own pre-Civil War slavery laws and the old apartheid laws of present-day South Africa are grotesquely obvious examples of laws that deviate from what is ethical.

Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty. And, ethical standards include standards relating to rights, such as the right to life, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy. Such standards are adequate standards of ethics because they are supported by consistent and well-founded reasons. Secondly, ethics refers to the study and development of one's ethical standards.

According to some researchers (Randall & Cote, 1991; Fodor, 1990), work ethics can induce employees to be highly involved in their jobs.

Ahmad (1976) argues that the Islamic work ethics stands not for life denial, but for life fulfillment and holds business motives in the highest regard. Consequently, it is more likely that those who believe in Islam and practice it tend to be more committed to their organizations and, presumably, more satisfied with their jobs.

Work ethics– of whatever variety– involves the ascription of value to work. Work is valued as the means to some end[1]. And, being bound up with the attainment of some state of affairs which is valued, people are motivated to work (Gay et al, 2007).

Besides work ethics, another important notion which influences organizational commitment is organizational culture. In today's organizational environment, corporate culture is used as a powerful tool to quantify the way a business functions (Gray et al., 2003).

The work ethics, as we know today, is a secularized construct derived from Max Weber which was described in his writings more than 100 years ago. Protestant work ethics has been widely used as an explanation of the success of capitalism in the Western world (Hill, 1995), even though Islam has emerged globally, but Muslim societies are very much influenced by the Western work ethics, and Malaysia is no exception.

Work ethics implies not only how one feels about their job, career or vocation, but also how one does his/her job or responsibilities. This involves attitude, behavior, respect, communication, and interaction; how one gets along with others. Work ethics demonstrates many things about what a person is.

Ethics is not simply a glorified intellectual game, of no practical relevance. We become moral individuals, as Aristotle says, by practice; good at being truthful by habitually telling truth; becoming characteristically honest by trying always not to be dishonest (Vallance, 2001).

Ethics is a matter of science, validating moral issues rising between human being and surroundings, in the mutual relations of human beings, among people related by various connections (Kučinskas, 2003).

Lithuanian authors present various descriptions of ethics. Professor Beržinskas (2001) describes  ethics as a philosophy of morality, theory, the human activity the purpose of whichis internal perfection of the personality (Beržinskas, 2002).

Professor Vyšniauskienė (1999) in her book "Verslo etika (Business ethics) describes ethics as "...practical philosophy talking about human behaviour in one's practical activity (Vyšniauskienė, 1999). Professor of Klaipėda University Kučinskas (2003) defines ethics as a subject of science, validating moral issues rising between a human being and his surroundings, mutual human relations and relations among human beings related to each other by various connections; it is a branch of philosophy analyzing values and evaluating human acts (Kučinskas, 2003).

Each system functions following the order stated (Gudas, 2000). Processes in a social system, procedures and their handling are defined by certain documents.

The ethics of employees of municipality administration is also most relevant, and considered in the present article. As the largest part of the employees of municipality administration are state officers, the ethics and working culture of state officers are analyzed in greater detail. 

The Lithuanian Republic law of public service defines the following:

"Public officer is a physical entity, performing his duties at state service and performing the activity of public administration“LR Valstybės tarnybos įstatymas (Law.., 2002.)

Besides the laws regulating ethics and working culture of public officers there is a government decision of the Lithuanian Republic on the confirmation of rules of ethics of the activity of public officers. The purpose of these rules is indicated in the decision – "to determine the principles of activity and behavior, which should be followed by the public officer, implementing his rights, performing his duties and functions stated in legal regulations, to increase the confidence of the society in public officers"14. (LR Vyriausybės..., 2002).

Culture is the environment that surrounds you at work all of the time. Culture is a powerful element that shapes your work enjoyment, your work relationships, and your work processes. But, culture is something that you cannot actually see, except through its physical manifestations in your work place (Heathfield, 2010).

In many ways, culture is like a personality. A personality has certain values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interests, experiences, upbringing, and habits that create a person’s behavior.

Culture is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of people. Culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at a set of - generally unspoken and unwritten - rules for working together.

An organization’s culture is made up of all of the life experiences each employee brings to the organization. Culture is especially influenced by the organization’s founder, executives, and other managerial staff because of their role in decision making and strategic direction (Heathfield, 2010).

One person cannot create a culture alone. Employees must try to change the direction, the working environment, the way the work is performed, or the manner in which decisions are made within the general norms of the workplace. Culture change is a process of give and take by all members of an organization. Formalizing strategic direction, systems development, and establishing measurements must be owned by the group responsible for them. Otherwise, employees will not own them.

In order to disclose the importance of ethics and working culture of the employees we have chosen the municipality of Alytus[2] region for the research. An empirical research (survey) was performed in order to find out the ethical and working culture problems of the employees of the municipality of Alytus region when the employees of the administration of the municipality were interviewed. The period of the researchwas January – March 2010.

There are 76 employees[3] working in the administration of Alytus region municipality. All the officers of the municipality are working full – time. The head of municipality - director of administration – has a subordinate deputy of the director and the departments, services, supreme specialists, as well as the doyens of regional villages and towns are subordinates to these persons.

After the analysis of the empirical research data was completed, it can be stated that 67% of the respondents are familiar with the legal regulations regulating ethics of the employees and working culture, 14% – partly and 19% - unfamiliar.

Asked how they understand what ethics is, most of the respondents – 73%, answered that ethics is a science about the norms of behavior, morality. 13 % stated that this is a science researching morality and virtue. Although there were presented descriptions of ethics of various authors (all the given answers were correct), the majority chose the most often used and widely spread notion of ethics as a science researching morality.

Most of the employees – 83% – participating in the survey, agree with the statement that public officers are expected to have higher ethical standards and norms than ordinary citizens. It also shows that public officers understand that people are expecting higher standards from them in comparison to other employees; they should be aware of the future and take in consideration the possible outcomes. Also 57% of the interviewed agree that a public officer forms the opinion of many citizens about the authorities as such.

Eventhough 87% of the interviewed stated that they are following certain rules of ethics and working culture in their job, 13% did not know anything about such rules.

Figure 1. Spread of the answers of the respondents what should follow the employee when performing his job.

65% of the interviewed think that they should follow professional values and standards, 20% – ethical standards, 15% – organizational values. It shows that professional and organizational values are more important for the officers than personal ones. This is a good sign because it shows the difference between the officers in the public and private sectors. 

The opinions were spread more or less equally concerning the question which principle of the public service is hardest to implement. It can be seen in Fig. 2.

Figure 2. Spread of the answers of the respondents which principle of the public service is the hardest to implement.

Hardest of all is to take personal responsibility for 48% of the respondents, but it is hard to obey the laws and implement them for 28% of the employees. As one of the employees has mentioned, it is most difficult to obey the laws, as laws are constantly changing constantly, and sometimes they are really very confusing, complicated and absurd. 23% of the interviewed stated that the hardest thing is to serve for public interests.

The answers of the respondents how often the employees of municipality stuck with ethical and working culture problems can be seen in Fig. 3.

Figure 3. Spread of the answers of respondents how often the employees of the municipality stuck with ethical and working culture problems.

Such a spread of the answers of the respondents might be explained that the interviewers were from different departments of the municipality. Therefore, they stuck with different kinds of problems which are solved in many different ways by the managers of the departments and, thus, in some cases the answers are spread more, in some cases less or not spread at all.

It is thought that the activity of the employees of a municipality should be honest. It means that it should be fair, open, correspond to the existing norms of behavior and always increase the welfare of people. However, sometimes, under certain circumstances the situation requires not to be completely open and tell the real truth because of completely understandable good intentions or precautions. Sometimes the circumstances make us say that keeping silent is the  best policy; sometimes it is thought that “the truth should be approached with caution”; sometimes it is better to tell a lie or even confuse. 

The interviewed employees treat as an inappropriate behavior at work to pass a secret information, use the organization's property for personal needs, as well as harassment towards the colleagues and conflicts at work.

Most of the respondents negatively evaluate giving or accepting gifts  because they treat it as the beginning of corruption (56%), attempts to bribe or win over (44%).

To the answer what is a gift for the job done, 80% of the respondents answered that its flowers, the others mentioned candies, verbal or written thanks, special literature, helping to perform the job better, souvenirs.

All the employees who participated in the survey unanimously confirmed that a graft may be money or some other material values; the others mentioned drinks, souvenirs, candies.

It shows that as a sign of thanks for the employees of the municipality could be small gifts such as flowers, candies, various souvenirs; the gifts of a bigger value are treated as a graft.

To the question whether the respondents have stuck with a graft or other kind of a bribe, most of them answered that they had heard about it from the mass media or acquaintances; besides, 27% of the employees confirmed that they themselves had given or taken a graft.

According to the opinion of the municipality employees who participated in the survey, people do not usually disclose unethical deeds due to many reasons: they don’t believe that effective measures will be taken; very often such a behavior might be treated as a blight; they don’t want to destroy the established and useful relationships; it could bias against themselves;  it is not their business, and normally no one acts like that.

The respondents believe that best what could be done is to limit unethical acts of the employees as the managers themselves have to behave ethically, develop consciousness of the employees and strengthen control.

The research done helped to find out more about the ethical and working culture problems of the employees of Alytus region municipality, to disclose their point of view about ethical problems, their actions when facing one or another kind of an ethical problem.


  1.  Ethics and working culture in the work of public officers is, nonetheless, more important than in the work of other professions, because they have to communicate with people daily. 
  2.  State officers are the medium link between the citizens and political power; their behavior and working culture form  the people’ s opinion about the authorities as such, morality and ethics of high officers. It is very important to educate officers, to recognize and solve ethical problems because this could be one of the efficient ways how to avoid them.
  3. Conflicts in the work of public officers are the negative appearance, because of their negative impact on the person himself and the people around - customers, colleagues. It has a negative impact on the efficiency of work, communication and working atmosphere.
  4. The employees of the municipality who participated in the survey agreed with the opinion that the standards of ethics applicable to the public officers are stricter than those applied to ordinary citizens, and the proper image of the employee helps to support the public confidence in service.
  5. It is more difficult to change the culture of an existing organization than to create a culture in a brand new organization. When an organizational culture is already established, people must abandon their old values, assumptions, and behaviors before they can learn the new ones. The two most important elements for creating an organizational cultural change are executive support and training.


Ahmad, K. (1976). Islam: Its meaning and message, Islamic Council of Europe, London.

Beržinskas, G. (2002). Ethics in the life and business. – Vilnius.

Braude, L. (1975). Work and workers. New York: Praeger.

Cherrington, D. J. (1980). The work ethic: Working values and values that work. New York: AMACOM.

Chen, S. (2005). A Social Exchange Perspective on Business Ethics: An Application to Knowledge Exchange.//Journal of Business Ethics, Nr. 62.

Fassin, Y. (2005). The Reasons behind Non-ethical Behaviour in Business and Entrepreneurship.//Journal of Business Ethics, Nr. 60.

Gay, P., Pryke, M. (2007). Cultural economy. – Great Britain, Athenaeun press, Gates head.

Gray, J. H., Densten, I. L., & Sarros, J. C. (2003). A matter of size: Does organizationalculture predict satisfaction in small organizations. Melbourne, Australia: Working paper 65/03, September, Faculty of Business and Economics, Monash University.

Gudas, S. (2000). Modelling organization activity. – Kaunas: Technologija.

Heathfield, S. M. (2010) What is organizational culture? Prieiga per Internetą:

Kučinskas, V. (2003). Ethics of the leader. – Klaipėda.

Kučinskas, V. (2003). Ethics of leadership. – Klaipėda.

Kulik, B.W. (2005). Agency Theory, Reasoning and Culture at Enron: In Search of a Solution.//Journal of Business Ethics, Nr. 59.

Laczniak, G. R. Framework for Analyzing Marketing Ethics. Mokwa (ed.), Prentice-Hall, 1990.

Lipset, S. M. (1990). The work ethic - then and now. Public Interest, Winter 1990, 61-69.

LR Valstybės tarnybos įstatymas (Law of Lithuania Republic Public Service)// Valstybės žinios. – 2002. Nr. 45.

LR Vyriausybės nutarimas Dėl valstybės tarnautojų veiklos etikos taisyklių patvirtinimo ir kt.// Valstybės žinios. – 2002. Nr. 65.

LR Civilinis kodeksas (Civil code). – Kaunas: Poligrafija ir informatika, 2001.

Palidauskaitė, J. (2001). Ethics of public administration. – Kaunas: Technologija.

Perkumienė, D., Raupelienė, A.,(2008). Ethics and Working Culture of the Employees in Public Sector VDU, Organizacijų vadyba: sisteminiai tyrimai, 2008. Nr. 46. P. 99-117. ISSN1392-1142.

Quinn, J. F. (1983). The work ethic and retirement. In Barbash, J., Lampman, R. J., Levitan, S. A., & Tyler, G. (Eds.), The work ethic: A critical analysis (pp. 87-100). Madison, Wisc.: Industrial Relations Research Association.

Raipa, A. (2001). Public administration. – Kaunas: Technologija.

Randall, D. & Core, J. (1991), Interrelationships of work commitment constructs, workand occupations. Vol. 18 (2), pp. 194-211.

Rose, M. (1985). Reworking the work ethic: Economic values and socio-cultural politics. London: Schocken.

Schlegelmich, B. B. (2001) Marketing Ethics: An International Perspective. UK, Thamson Learning.

Vallance, E. (2001). Business ethics at work. – Great Britain, CambridgeUniversitypress.

Vasiljevienė, N. (2000). Business ethics and codes of behavior. – Kaunas.

Velasquez, M., et al. (2010). What is ethics? San Francisco, Santa ClaraUniversity.

Vyšniauskienė, D., Kundrotas, V. (1999). Business ethics. – Kaunas: Technologija.

Wagner-Tsukamoto, S. (2005). An Economic Approach to Business Ethics: Moral Agency of the Firm and the Enabling and Constraining Effects of Economic Institutions and Interactions in a Market Economy.//Journal of Business Ethics, Nr. 60.

Yankelovich, D. & Immerwahr, J. (1984). Putting the work ethic to work. Society, 21(2), 58-76.


[1]Including the possibilities that work itself serves as the end or that work is not valued per se.

[2]Such kind research was made in Klaipeda regional municipality in 2008. Authors are going to do a comparative analysis and investigate peculiarities of work and ethics culture of employees in different municipalities.

[3]Questionnaires were distributedto all workers of administration of Alytaus municipality, but were returned 58.

Previous Juris Ozols, Oskars Onževs, Elita Ardava
          Emīls Pūlmanis, Silvija Bruņa, Žaneta Ilmete