Reflect on the past 12 months and 2019 could easily be dubbed "the Year of the Bad Boss".
From scandalous revelations about the unscrupulous behaviour of prominent bank executives to ongoing allegations of deliberate wage theft - there was no shortage of examples of bad behaviour that had unethical bosses falling like dominoes.
There were those who told little white lies, while others shared whoppers, and bosses who demonstrated such creative accounting moves to violate even the most basic standards.
And let us not forget those unethical bosses who bullied and harassed employees, or - perhaps worse - turned a blind eye when they witnessed first-hand or became aware of incidences of bullying and harassment in their workplace.
For bosses, ethical behaviour in business is about doing the right thing by your clients, employees and the broader community, even when no one is looking.
And while not all unethical behaviour is illegal, all ethical infractions are wrong.
But it seems many bosses experienced a great level of difficulty in determining exactly what was right and what was wrong, based on the sheer number of high-level ethical lapses in 2019.
Those headline-grabbing ethical infringements are likely to represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to poor moral judgment in many of our workplaces.
To be clear, most bosses - whether in the corporate, government, not-for-profit or charitable sectors - set out to run their businesses in an ethical way.
Nonetheless, the incidence of unethical business behaviour is rising, and the reasons behind the recent spike might surprise you.
Much of the immoral behaviour in our workplace is driven by everyday bosses.
For the most part it is not those headline-grabbing bad bosses feathering their own nests who cause everyday workers to engage in unethical practices.
Ironically, much of the immoral behaviour in our workplace is driven by everyday bosses who might be beacons of best practice when it comes to personal integrity but unwittingly create workplace environments that allow the unethical behaviour of others to flourish.
Many bosses, for example, make it unsafe for workers to speak up about unethical behaviour in their workplace despite proclaiming that they have an open-door policy.
They fail to encourage workers to report questionable behaviours and, on the odd occasion a concern is raised, find themselves ill-equipped to take appropriate corrective measures or protect a well-intentioned whistleblower.
Others mistakenly believe ethical issues are suited to post-mortem discussions only after some form of catastrophe has occurred.
Even worse, some bosses apply excessive pressure on team members to reach unrealistic targets.
This often has the effect of inadvertently encouraging employees to cut corners, deceive or even tell lies to get a deal over the line.
Let us not forget also that when well-intentioned bosses treat those who have reached seemingly unreachable targets as if they were rock stars, yet remain completely oblivious to the ethical infractions that enabled this miraculous success, they embed within the workplace a culture of depravity.
Once a culture of unscrupulous behaviour has become embedded within an organisation, the journey back to a workplace that values ethical behaviour can be more difficult than pinning a medal on a shadow.
Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Bosses who want to ensure the incidence of unscrupulous behaviour in their workplace heads south and not north in 2020 would be well advised to dedicate time, effort and resources to establish an ethical business culture well before a crisis can rear its ugly head.
That might just help to make 2020 a year to celebrate the return of an ethical foundation to our business community, where everyone - or at least the vast majority of us - does the right thing even when no one is watching.
- Professor Gary Martin is a workplace culture expert with the Australian Institute of Management.