Ethical Dilemmas in Human Resource Management


Human Resource Management (HRM) practices are subject to several ethical issues. While some of them are direct, other ethical dilemmas are unwritten and unspoken. This is why several regulations and institutions, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, govern the activities of HRM to make sure they comply with existing legal statutes (Buckley et al., 2001). Therefore, several HRM functions, such as hiring, promotion, and employee dismissal, are subject to the existing legal and ethical guidelines of HRM management (Buckley et al., 2001). Many researchers have studied ethical issues in HRM and come up with unique findings (Buckley et al., 2001; Mishra & Sharma, 2010; Rose, 2007).

This paper is an integrated research review of four peer-reviewed journals that find out the ethical issues in HRM. The structure of this paper outlines independent reviews of the four papers. These independent reviews are in this paper to understand the contents and flow of arguments in each article.

Purpose of Study

By understanding ethical issues in HRM, businesses could sustain their HR activities longer than businesses that do not (Rose, 2007). Furthermore, by understanding the ethical issues in HRM, it is easy to create a positive environment for employers and employees to interact. Here, organisations could end corruption, poverty, and the lack of respect between employers and employees because these elements undermine employer-employee relationships.

Summary of Paper Sections (Listing of Major Sections)

This paper consists of six sections. The first four sections describe the four research articles sampled. These sections highlight the research methods and results as key components of the articles. Other details included in the reviews include the literature review, discussions of the findings, and the conclusions/recommendations of the papers. The fifth section of this paper is a comparative discussion of the articles sampled. In this section, this paper highlights the key points in each article and compares them with another. The last two sections of this paper provide insights of shared comparisons and compare the shared views to come up with a comprehensive conclusion of the research process. Appendix 1 shows this outline plan.

First Research Article


Christopher, Olusiji, and Ekundayo (2012) investigated the main ethical issues in HRM through their article titled, “Promoting Ethical Human Resource Management Practices in Work Organisations in Nigeria: Roles of HR Professionals.” Their study investigated ethical HRM practices among Nigerian organisations. It also sought to investigate the role of HR managers in adopting ethical practices (to improve employee wellbeing).

Literature Review

The literature review section showed that ethical issues involved normative judgments and moral decisions (Christopher et al., 2012). The authors demonstrated that ethical practices permeate all aspects of a business’s operations (Christopher et al., 2012). This way, they said, while organisations may adopt specific policies and managerial interventions to minimise incidences of unethical practices in the workplace, organisations should train workers to act ethically because this is the most effective way of managing ethical practices (Christopher et al., 2012).

Research Methods

This paper used an integrative research review to come up with the research findings. Since the authors focused on highlighting the ethical issues in public sector operations, government publications provided the main sources of information (Christopher et al., 2012). Beyond these processes, the authors did not show further information about their methodology.

Results and Findings

Christopher et al. (2012) explained the ethical issues in HRM by exploring the ethics of recruitment and selection (discrimination, sexual harassment, and negligent hiring), ethical issues in compensation and reward management and the ethical issues in training and development. In the same text, they explored ethical issues concerning employee promotion, employee transfer, staff separation (competence and merit-based promotion and seniority-based promotion), performance appraisal, employee health and safety, labour management, and communication at work (Christopher et al., 2012). The following diagram shows how the authors described these ethical issues and their relation to human resource management.

Ethical issues in human resource management.
Figure One: Ethical issues in human resource management (Source: Christopher et al., 2012).

After identifying key ethical issues in HRM, the authors explored ways to manage unethical practices in the practice. They explained that ethical policy implementation, employee training, and promoting a “whistle blowing” culture could minimise unethical HRM practices (Christopher et al., 2012).


Although most issues highlighted in this article explain the importance of ethics in HRM, people should understand that the authors developed their findings from the public sector point of view. Therefore, there may be a need to interpret these findings this way.

Conclusion and Implications

Christopher et al. (2012) investigated the ethical issues in HRM within the Nigerian corporate scene. They highlighted the role of the Nigerian federal government in promoting ethical practices within the public and private sectors of the economy and explained the role of HR in promoting ethical practices in the corporate sector. Using theoretical and practical knowledge, the authors also explored the main issues in human resource practice by giving practical examples of unethical practices in the workplace. Comprehensively, the authors enjoin HR practitioners with top management and highlight the need for these professionals to educate employees (constantly) about the need for adopting ethical practices in the workplace.

Second Research Article


Mishra and Sharma (2010) explored the main ethical dilemmas in HRM through a research article titled, “Ethical Organisations and Employees.” To do so, the researchers investigated the main ethical practices in Indian organisations and highlighted the possible steps that organisations could take to improve their ethical performance. The paper had only four objectives – to explore the ethical practices in organisations, to find the opinions of corporate professionals about ethics, to study the practice of CSR, and to determine important factors that affect ethical behaviours (Mishra & Sharma, 2010).

Literature Review

To understand the ethical foundations of HRM practice, this article showed that ethical leadership stemmed from proper management practices. This way, the researchers emphasised the need for organisations to have leaders that have a high integrity (Mishra & Sharma, 2010). Using this logic, they believed that this attribute was pivotal to solving many ethical issues that affected modern organisations (Mishra & Sharma, 2010). To demonstrate how ethical guidelines are important in HRM practice, the researchers also explained that all organisations have a responsibility towards their stakeholders to build sustainable communities, respect individuals, and accomplish organisational goals (Mishra & Sharma, 2010).

Research Methods

Mishra and Sharma (2010) used the survey method as the main research design. The authors did their research after investigating the ethical practices in ten organisations. To do so, they used the Wilcoxon test and perceptual maps to understand if corporate social responsibility (CSR) tools helped organisations to act ethically. They collected data using personal interviews and semi-structured questionnaires. To analyse data, they used descriptive and content analysis methods (Mishra & Sharma, 2010).

The researchers conducted their study in different parts of southern part of India (Kolkata, Bengal, Jameshedpur, and Bengaluru) and categorised the sampled study population according to their professions or industry, including manufacturing, software, and service industries. They chose these industries for purposes of ethical understanding (Mishra & Sharma, 2010). From the ten organisations, 660 professionals agreed to participate in the study. Out of this number, 17 professionals were in senior management positions (others were either in executive positions or in the lower levels of management) (Mishra & Sharma, 2010). Collectively, none of the respondents had less than one year experience in such positions.

Results and Findings

The authors claimed that managing ethics in the workplace could improve by appreciating an organisation’s values and moral principles and understanding its contribution to an organisation’s decision-making process (Mishra & Sharma, 2010). While seeking answers regarding how such organisations use these moral principles and values, Mishra & Sharma (2010) found that most organisations failed to communicate the same values in their organisation policies.

The researchers also showed that the HRM department was pivotal in promoting ethical principles in the organisation because it controlled different aspects of employee operations, such as training, employee communication, and employee discipline (Mishra & Sharma, 2010). This is why many large organisations (mostly multinationals) depend on their HR departments to implement ethical codes of conduct in the organisation.


Mishra and Sharma (2010) developed the findings of this paper after sampling the views of managers and company executives in ten Indian organisations. To this extent of analysis, most of their findings are context-specific. Furthermore, since ethics is contextual, it may be difficult to extrapolate the findings of this paper to other regions because cultural variations in India could affect the type of ethical dilemmas sampled by the researchers. Therefore, it is pertinent to understand the contextual nature of these findings.

Conclusion and Implications

The findings of this paper show that organisational success depends on the success of managers in developing sound ethical procedures in the workplace. Particularly, an ethical organisation could easily benefit from improved employer-employee relations, which would further improve organisational productivity.

Third Research Article


Sharma, Singh, and Bhuker (2014) investigated the ethical issues in HRM through an article titled, “Ethical Issues and Code of Conduct related to Human Resource Management.” The purpose of their research was to find out ethical issues in HRM, according to the views of senior managers, HR scholars and HR researchers. They focused on understanding this topic as it relates to explaining unique aspects of HRM operations, such as employee management and industrial relations development (Sharma et al., 2014). Lastly, the researchers also focused on explaining the importance and impact of HRM practices in the organisation.

Literature Review

Sharma et al. (2014) argued that the organisation life cycle theory, role behaviour theory, resource dependency theory, institutional theory, transaction cost theory, and the comparative advantage theories outline the main ethical frameworks for HRM. Comparatively, they also used the general systems theory, human capital theory, strategic competency theory, and organisational change theory to describe other theoretical foundations for understanding the main ethical issues in HRM (Sharma et al., 2014). The researchers also said ethical training is an important requirement in employee training programs (Sharma et al., 2014).

Furthermore, they said it should continue even after employees have finished their training programs. In their view, the authors said promoting an ethical culture in the organisation would allow employees to speak about different organisational issues (Sharma et al., 2014). The same culture allows them to interact amicably with authority and report ethical issues to the relevant managers (Sharma et al., 2014).

Research Methods

This article does not reveal much information about the methodology used to answer the research questions. However, it shows that the researchers developed their findings after sampling the views of senior managers, HR scholars and HR researchers.

Results and Findings

After sampling the views of HR professionals, Sharma et al. (2014) found out that the main ethical issues in HRM emerged when implementing employee compensation plans, minimising discriminatory practices (race, gender, and disability), developing employee hiring procedures, and protecting employee privacy. They said that HR managers have a huge responsibility of minimising ethical issues in any of the above operational areas through recruitment and selection tests, ethics training, performance appraisal tests, and promoting equal opportunities in the workplace (Sharma et al., 2014).

The researchers also found out that many organisations use ethical requirements to develop the legal framework of employer-employee relations. Moreover, many organisations use ethical guidelines to build the confidence of their employees (Sharma et al., 2014).


The findings of this paper include practical and theoretical knowledge of ethical issues in HRM. Therefore, its findings are holistic. Furthermore, they are easy to extrapolate in other business contexts because they do not have any social, political, or cultural limitation.

Conclusion and Implications

Sharma et al. (2014) acknowledged the variety of ethical issues in HRM management. They argued that these issues appear in different aspects of HRM management, such as recruitment, selection, training, and employee placement (Sharma et al., 2014). Understanding ethical issues in the organisation helps to train new employees and fulfil the ethical goals of professional organisations. Therefore, failing to understand the ethical issues in HRM could lead to a collapse of organisational systems and cause the development of poor employer-employee relations, which could cause the decline and collapse of organisations or industries (Sharma et al., 2014).

Fourth Research Article


Buckley et al. (2001) investigated the main ethical issues in HRM through an article titled “Ethical issues in human resources systems.” The authors analysed the negative consequences of unethical practices in the corporate scene to understand the main ethical issues in HRM. They also used the same approach and to investigate the effects of these issues on HRM practices.

Literature Review

Buckley et al. (2001) says there is an increased interest in understanding ethical issues in HRM. Although they question why this is so, they do not fail to explain that the information gathered is not the most important thing in this assessment, but rather, the actions derived from using this information (Buckley et al., 2001). In their view, they believe understanding ethics in HRM could help to promote an ethical culture in an organisation (Buckley et al., 2001). By evaluating ethical issues, the authors believe that HRM systems and ethical corporate cultures should outline part of the competitive framework of organisations.

Research Methods

There is insufficient information in this article to explain the methodology used by the researchers to come up with their findings. However, it demonstrates a thorough literature review of past studies that focused on answering the research questions. The researchers also used a context analysis method to derive data from past research papers and use them to answer the research questions (Buckley et al., 2001). The search strategy adopted by the researchers included business ethics, human resource ethics, ethical culture and accountability as the main keywords.

Results and Findings

Based on the assessments done by Buckley et al. (2001), the authors say the main ethical issues in HRM emerge through selection/staffing, performance appraisal programs, employee compensation programs, employee reward systems, and organisational exit procedures. These operational areas outline key segments of HRM. Therefore, using the same findings, the authors’ findings imply that ethics permeates through all aspects of HRM.


Without sufficient information to explain the methodology of the researchers in answering the research questions, it is difficult to verify the authenticity, credibility, or reliability of the findings. However, the findings presented by the researchers are unique because they shift our attention from understanding the main ethical issues in HRM to knowing how such information would be useful in improving HRM practice. Therefore, this paper goes a step further to explain the utility of its findings.

Conclusion and Implications

This paper demonstrates the importance of understanding ethical practices in HRM. It highlights the need to promote an ethical culture as a subset of improved organisational performance because without proper ethical standards in HRM operations, organisations would have a difficult time sustaining their operations.

Comparative Discussion

Key Points in Each Article

All the articles sampled demonstrate that the main ethical issues in HRM emerge through employee recruitment, employee compensation and employee reward schemes. The third article introduced employee discrimination processes, and employee privacy as other ethical concerns in HRM. Similarly, the fourth article included organisational exit procedures as other ethical issues in HRM. This was a distinct observation in the fourth article because other articles never mentioned this fact. Employee training emerged as the main ethical hotspot for all the articles sampled. For example, it emerged in the second article as part of employee communication and employee discipline practices in HRM. The second article also emphasized the importance of corporate cultures in promoting ethical practices (Mishra & Sharma, 2010).

Its authors have a lot of faith in this system because it enjoins the values, beliefs, goals, norms and practices of an organisation (Mishra & Sharma, 2010). Indeed, to explain the power of corporate cultures in building successful companies, both authors use the success of TATA Company to demonstrate the value of corporate cultures in promoting ethical practices and improving organisational success (Mishra & Sharma, 2010).

Comparatively, the third article demonstrates the importance of having an ethical committee as part of the process for implementing ethical practices in an organisation. The first and second articles draw our attention to employee hiring, performance appraisal, employee training, and employee privacy as key areas of HRM practices, which are vulnerable to most ethical dilemmas. The fourth article also mirrors the same finding.

Comparison of Selected Key Points

All the articles sampled highlighted the important role of the HRM department in promoting ethical practices in the organisation. Different articles highlighted different ways of doing so. However, having a defined code of ethics emerged as the most common strategy for promoting ethical practices in an organisation. For example, the first and second articles showed the importance of ethical codes of conduct in promoting ethical practices in the organisation. The third and fourth articles also demonstrated the role of an ethical code of conduct in defining a framework for reporting ethical issues in HRM (and managing such issues when they arise).

Therefore, by understanding acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in the workplace, it is easy for employees to know the ethical and unethical practices. The third article also highlighted the importance of having a code of ethics because it improves the competence in carrying out professional activities and helps organisations to comply with existing ethical requirements (Sharma et al., 2014). Its authors also argued that the code of ethics promotes dignity in the workplace, balances stakeholder interests, promotes confidentiality, minimises conflicts of interest, and promotes professional growth and support of other professionals (Sharma et al., 2014). Comprehensively, all the researchers sampled in this paper argued that it was important to promote HRM practices by understanding ethical issues.

Insights of Shared Comparisons

Based on the articles sampled in this paper, ethical guidelines define employee treatment because they promote ordinary decency and distributive justice. All the articles demonstrate that embracing an ethical business culture improves employee productivity and organisational efficiency by allowing employees to develop better relationships with their seniors and report cases of ethical impropriety for action. Such contributions show that understanding ethical issues in HRM could provide a shared ethical approach to organisational management.

Conclusion of Shared Comparisons

Based on the shared insights surrounding ethics in HRM, this paper finds that key areas of HRM ethics are safety in the workplace, employee privacy, justifiable employee treatment, and honesty-based employment practices in the workplace.

Conclusion and Implications

This paper has analysed key ethical issues in HRM management, based on the findings of four peer-reviewed studies. It shows the importance of understanding ethics in HRM because it helps to improve employer-employee relationships and organisational productivity. Failing to understand these factors could create biased attitudes in organisation development because unethical standards increase employee stress and make it difficult for organisations to solve disputes. These factors could decrease employee performance and cause industry decline.


Buckley, E., Beu, D., Frink, D., Howard, J., Berkson, H., Mobbs, T.,…Ferris, G. (2001). Ethical issues in human resources systems. Human Resource Management Review, 11(1), 11-29. Web.

Christopher, C., Olusiji, O., & Ekundayo, B. (2012). Promoting Ethical Human Resource Management Practices in Work Organisations in Nigeria: Roles of HR Professionals. International Journal of Human Resource Studies, 2(2), 116-131. Web.

Mishra, N., & Sharma, G. (2010). Ethical Organization and Employees. Asian Journal Of Management Research, 4(1), 59-80. Web.

Rose, A. (2007). Ethics and Human Resource Management. Web.

Sharma, M., Sing, M., & Bhuker, P. (2014). Ethical Issues and Code of Conduct Related To Human Resource Management. Sai Om Journal of Commerce & Management, 1(9), 8-15. Web.