Ethics refers to moral principles which govern cultural practices in a particular society. An individual is regarded to exhibit ethical conduct by behaving in accordance with established moral values. However, ethics are differentiated with individual perceptions and attitudes (Bryman, 2010). As such, workplace ethics are a product of personal principles inherent in mannerisms of the individual workers.
Virtue ethics explores the importance of solid character of workers and their managers in organizations. Work rules and repercussions for people’s actions do not determine moral judgment of workplace relationships. The character of an individual in different circumstances is the main feature of virtue ethics if demystifying moral dilemmas and moral conclusions in life. For instance, lying may be considered morally wrong in mainstream society while it obtains a different interpretation as conceived by virtue ethics. Foreseeable consequences of lying are determined from the context through which the action is done. Different scenarios influence moral actions and decisions. The work environment is quite dynamic and challenging which demands that people are shrewd enough to obtain the best bargain under different contexts. The need to earn a living and the pressure from work to achieve desired organizational outcomes exhibited by performance contracts is quite challenging. The moral concept is therefore applicable to various circumstances disproportionately (Ali, Taqi, Krishnan, 1997). In this context, lying could be considered shrewd enough in a context where the benefits of lying overweigh telling the truth. This can be illustrated in a situation where corruption is initiated by top management in pursuit of their greed for wealth, while subordinate employees are simply dragged into the scandal by being asked to clear fictitious contracts under the deal.
It is therefore wiser for an ordinary employee to ignore orders from higher authority to participate in the financial scandal as a result of intrinsic virtues of honesty. This could be dangerous since a lucrative career and job could be lost. However, foreseeable consequences of participation of in the shadowy deals and business contracts could lead to substantial losses which could bring down the entire company. Essentially, whether the non-cooperative subordinate employee is fired or not, a company whose management is engaged in corrupt activities risk rendering the organization obsolete (Bass& Avolio, 2009). The character of an independent employee being honest and accountable is capable of saving not only self but also the entire organization. Participation in the shadowy business contracts for cheap financial gains could lead to the collapse of an entire organization placing careers and business prospects of shareholders on the line. Corruption among other crimes is characterized by a culture of greed, malice and lust for selfish ambitions. Work rules dictate to employees and employers terms and conditions of their engagement. However, in most circumstances, people are tempted to manipulate work rules for their selfish gain.
Character traits considered virtuous
Moral virtue of fairness is considered an important trait for workplace relationships. Fairness provides that people are given equal opportunities at work. Both male and female employees are treated as equal partners at work stimulating internal competition for rewards. Reward systems are designed in a manner to reflect the diversity of opinions and social status of stakeholders (Bryman, 2010). Organizational leadership facilitates development of a democratic workplace environment where workers are free to share their opinions without fear of reprisals. This leads to intellectual stimulation of innovative ideas which promote the realization of organizational goals.
Different tasks at work demand for specialization of labor and teamwork. Employees are therefore motivated to coexist as a community where their expertise is acknowledged. Workers participate in different tasks at work through cooperation, respect and tolerance in view conflicting opinions.
Utilitarianism places moral judgment for a particular action on its consequences. Results that are obtained from peoples’ actions are therefore considered superior to the action’s intrinsic features. Utilitarianism is therefore described by rationality and cooperation among people. The strife for perfection has always characterized the weak nature of human character. The capitalist perceptions for profit maximization and desire for wealth motivates people to engage in amorous activities in order to make ends meet. “The end justifies the means” philosophy is more esteemed that process approach in carrying out assignments (Arnold et al, 2001).).
The concept of right or wrong is conceptualized from the norms and values of a particular society. Customs, practices and traditions of a society define its cultural orientations in life for its people. Language is an important ingredient of cultural values and heritage. Custom areas include practices such as dress code, patriarchal hierarchies and moral standards consistent with a particular culture. Intrinsic traits does not feature for an action nor is its fate inconsequential provided that ethical matters as defined within the context of culture are complied with. Different societies assign different roles to its people in accordance with gender. Decision making is usually executed by men in a patriarchal society while women play a subordinate role. Gender roles dictate leadership responsibilities in such patriarchal systems (Ali, Taqi, Krishnan, 1997). For instance, Muslim states assign positions of higher possibility to men while women are expected to support their husbands, brothers and fathers in various tasks.
Islamic banking is one aspect of the business culture which defines terms of engagement in financial markets where interest rates are minimized. Lending is not attached with the interest rates maturation period notwithstanding. In addition, a dress code strictly defines the manner in which Muslim men and women put on. The dress code should be strictly followed even in societies where that religion is practiced by majority of the population. Moral practices and underlying beliefs borrow extensively from Quran which explores the doctrines of Mohammed. The Muslim culture can therefore conflict with other cultures in a workplace environment where workers have mixed cultures. For instance a Muslim faithful may have to break for prayers at different times of the day. This could interfere with business and work rules in organizations which do not subscribe to Islam. There are organizations which recognize religions and cultures of different people in their comprehensive organizational culture. However, the current capitalist perspective among business firms keen to reap maximum profits and benefits from the global economy demands that cultural beliefs and values which hinder realization of organizational goals eradicated (Avery, 2004).
Benefits of managing Ethics in the Workplace
Development of society
Moral benefits of business ethics at workplace cannot be overemphasized. Business ethics have contributed towards developing society by improving living standards and the wellbeing of workers. Employment contracts were previously terminated based on perceptions and personalities leaving employees worried about the future of their careers. Employment relationships were characterized by intimidation and harassment. In response to labor injustices, the society pushed for enactment of anti-trust laws which placed high value on justice, fairness and equality (Bass, Avolio, Goodheim, 2007). Unions were therefore organized to safeguard the rights of workers through the established laws and regulations.
Moral course in turbulent times
Business ethics provide managers with a clear moral compass for navigating turbulent times characterized by complex conflicts through strategic action. By paying attention to ethics, managers and subordinates are equipped with the right skills to respond to challenging situations. For instance, managers utilize ethics and moral principles to respond to workers’ grievances during an industrial action. Problems arising from globalization such as economic fluctuations create a situation of uncertainty manifested by declining profit margins and job losses. Business managers need to have a thorough appreciation of ethical principles and moral values in order to provide necessary leadership required for creativity and innovation (Chemer, 2007).
Ethics cultivate strong teamwork and productivity
Ethics programs equip employees with the right behavior which conforms to values preferred by organizational leadership. Workplace conflicts originate from disparities between priority ethical values in organizations and behaviors exhibited by employees. By creating awareness of requisite business values at workplace through dialogue builds a transparent atmosphere characterized by openness, integrity and community service. Dialogue facilitates development of strong teams at work which are value-based. Productivity is improved since employees have strong motivation to work (Beck& Yeager, 2001). Performance targets are easily achieved and so are organizational objectives.
Business ethics promote enhance confidence of employees in both the organization and themselves. Work-related stress is minimized through ethical behavior. Career growth is enhanced and personal relationships strengthened. Employee growth is achieved through a combination of improved self-esteem and self-confidence. Job satisfaction among employees is equally high since the work environment is fulfilling and sustaining.
Business ethics as insurance policy
Business ethics are derivatives of legal principles and state-of-art personnel policies. Business ethics therefore guide managers and subordinates on procedures at workplace. Attention to ethics therefore minimizes possibilities of labor disputes and personnel lawsuits within organizations (Burn, 2002). Company policies and ethical principles are the yardstick in human resource matters such as recruitment, disciplining and firing.
Rights and privileges that workers are entitled to include; “freedom of speech, the right to privacy and the right to due process”. According to Kant’s theory of categorical imperative, individuals are independent moral agents who subscribe to different moral principles. Civilized society provides that individuals determine their preferred ethical principles. Most people are influenced by religion and culture. Personal principles and values are therefore derived from cultural beliefs and religious doctrines. Ethical dilemmas arise from clash between personal ethics and organizational culture. Right-based ethics guide managers and subordinates on principles of their employment relationship and desired organizational outcomes. Trade unions are organized to ensure that rights and privileges entitled to workers are not interred with. This explores issues such as unionization, work environment and employment contracts. Workers need to be represented by legal trade unions in order to safeguard against unfair treatment by employers. Employers who deny workers the right for unionization are either harboring evil motives or protecting their interests from public scrutiny (Ali, Taqi, Krishnan, 1997). Accountability and transparency demand that employment relations at workplace are guided by right-based ethics which promote human rights and uphold justice.
Workers employed as casuals in factories are often exposed to dangerous chemicals and harsh working environments. They are also underpaid since most of them constitute the pool of unskilled labor. On the other hand, skilled labor is composed of professional employees who are equally exposed and competitive. As such, skilled manpower is properly remunerated in order to retain them for the benefit of the organization. However, unskilled laborers are employed on casual terms without legal protection of their employment contracts. Factory casual workforce may therefore be hired and fired at the discretion of the employer. They are denied leave, maternity privileges and even house allowance. It is therefore to find unskilled workforce living in pathetic conditions in informal settlements without the hope of a better future. Right-based ethics therefore explores remedial interventions such as unionization of casual laborers in order to fight for their work-related privileges. Since they are semi-literate and impoverished, they lack the capacity to challenge their rich and powerful employers through legal means. Employees are also privileged to negotiate for better work relations in view of challenges in life. For instance, employees can negotiate with employers for higher salaries in view of rising cost of living (Bass, 2005).
Workers are entitled to justice and fairness. Justice is the standard for rightness while fairness makes reference to concrete judgments. Moral principles of justice and fairness provide the standard for decision making at workplace. This is achieved from a democratic perspective where an open work environment allows for different individuals to share their views during decision making without fear of reprisals. Justice and fairness seeks to empower workers with the right for protection of their employment contracts within the law (Bryman, 2010). Employers are therefore compelled to be considerate enough in the manner in which they administer authority on employment matters. For instance, termination of employment contracts before maturation can be legally challenged in the interest of the employee. Employees are therefore empowered to work without fear as equal partners with employers in achieving organizational goals. Individual workers are also free to pursue their personal goals at workplace so long as a balance exists between personal goals and employment objectives.
Ethics of care
Workplace relationships are characterized by interdependence of individuals in attaining their interests. Ethics of care ensure that individuals are concerned with the welfare of others. There is no stereotyping. Workplace is a dynamic environment where people from different nationalities are brought together with a common goal of earning a living. Both men and women are treated equally at workplace. People from divergent social, political and cultural backgrounds are brought together by common purpose for improving their lives. Corporate social responsibility facilitates the concept of ethics of care in the society. Employees are provided with opportunities for engaging in community service and social development. Corporate social responsibility helps in promoting socio-economic development of neighborhoods through programs such as tree planting for environmental conservation (Beck& Yeager, 2001). On the other hand, people with disabilities and the disadvantaged are equally provided with opportunities to develop their careers as well as gain work experience in organizations. This is achieved through provision of technical facilities which enable such disadvantaged perform their duties without much difficulty. A culture of fairness and equity allows for people from different social classes to work together and compete for positions of higher responsibility and leadership in organizations.
Values and ethics which define nature of relationships and associations in mainstream society are also entrenched in to organizational culture. Workers are allowed to practice their faiths even at work provided such practices do not interfere with cultural practices of business organizations. There are usually conflicts between religious doctrines and business culture due to extreme allegiance to the former at workplace. For instance, Muslims may need to adhere to their religious values even at workplace such as breaking for prayers during certain time intervals of a working. This may not augur well with organizational leadership which seeks to ensure that working hours are properly spent on activities and duties which add value to the organization. However, organizational culture can be adjusted in order to accommodate such religious practices provided vision, mission and objectives or an organization are not interfered with. This may call for demands that such Muslim employees are required to work extra hours in order to compensate for the time spent on private matters such as prayers which are accommodated with organizational culture. Such an intervention calls for sobriety and consensus building in order to avoid creating job dissatisfaction (Avolio& Goodheim, 2007).
Institutional arrangements for ethics and justice
Ethical decision making is a dynamic learning process which is achieved through an institutional framework that inspires all stakeholders to cooperate from the premise of intercultural understanding. Sustainable development is culturally-based in view of trends in globalization. Interaction of people from different nationalities facilitates cultural exchanges which boosts economic development and prosperity. Language is the medium for intercultural exchange and international trade. Language barriers limit the extent to international engagements take place. Workplace relationships are determined by the degree to which leadership communicates vision to subordinates (Arnold et al, 2001). Due to increased completion in the global economy coupled to challenges brought about by international relations, people are forced to look for employment in different countries. However, xenophobic attacks are witnessed in foreign labor markets where citizens are disturbed with the notion of foreigners competing with nationals for limited job opportunities. As such, migrant workers are targeted by criminal gangs in extreme xenophobic attacks as a strategy to discourage foreigners from seeking employment opportunities in those destinations.
Business culture is therefore exposed to risks of racial, tribal and ethnic differences which are escalated to the workplace by naïve persons who can withstand international competition in the current globalised world. Such xenophobic attacks have been reported in South Africa and some countries in Western Europe. The globalised workplace demands that ethics and justice are institutionalized in the interest of developing global economy. Women were previously discriminated against at workplace in patriarchal societies which did not believe in gender balance. However, the enlightenment process of the modern world has witnessed development in women empowerment programs. Culture describes values, principles and morals which define the way of life in society and organizations. Weak organizational culture leads to haphazard approach in executing job operations. Leadership and management mediate cultural awareness in organizations. This is done by the work of managers who lead the rest of the organization in understanding and applying important concepts and principles which define its culture in different activities (Beck& Yeager, 2001). Managers also establish unique code of ethics and work rules which guide new recruits in understanding organizational culture.
Ali, A. Taqi, A. and Krishnan, K., 1997. Individualism, Collectivism, and Decision Styles of Managers in Kuwait. The Journal of Social Psychology 137, London.
Arnold, J. Arad, S. Rhoades, J. & Drasgow, F., 2001. The Empowering Leadership Questionnaire: the Construction and Validation of a New scale for Measuring Leader Behaviors. Journal of management 17, New York.
Avery, G., 2004.Understanding Leadership: Paradigms and Cases. Sage: London.
Bass, B. and Avolio, B., 2009.Potential Biases in Leadership Measures: How Prototypes, Leniency, & General Satisfaction Relate to Ratings & Rankings of Transformational & Transactional Leadership Constructs. Educational & Psychological Measurement, Dubai.
Bass, B., 2005.Leadership & Performance beyond Expectations. New York: Free Press.
Bass, B. Avolio, B. & Goodheim, L., 2007. Biography and the Assessment of Transformational Leadership at the World Class Level. Journal of Management, London.
Beck, J. & Yeager, N., 2001.The Leader’s Window: Mastering the Four Styles of Leadership to build High Performing Teams, Davies-Black Publishing, California.
Bryman, A., 2010. Charisma & Leadership in Organizations. London: Sage.
Burn, J., 2002.Leadership, New York: Harper & Row.
Chemer, M., 2007. An Integrative Theory of Leadership. New Delhi: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Mahwah.