Ethics Situation in the Workplace

Introduction

Ethics and moral behavior at workplace is crucial for positive climate and morale among employees. Methods of honesty can be learned only in the hard school of experience, that they are forced upon us by circumstances, and not voluntarily adopted. In certain cases this may be true; but it is also true that honest dealings never issue from moralized minds; they embody the basic desire for rectitude which reflective thought engenders. Critics shall discuss in due course each of these forms of actions, always assuming that they represent the aims and purposes of a mind. Behavior is the correlate of thought, and thought breaks up into myriad different ideas. The original motive and the first intention must be explicity defined before action can be said to be truly moral. Unreflective behavior has no ethical values.

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Topic Overview

The literature Review allows to say hat the problem of monitoring, privacy and confidentiality at workplace is still under attack. While employers are installing or updating more sophisticated ways of monitoring employee use of the internet and email employees are questioning the necessity and legality of this practice. One case involving an employee who was looking for another position using the employer’s access to the internet stands out as an example of potential employer abuse of the system1. The employee received an email over the company’s online access after work verifying that she had been hired by another company. Ultimately the employee resigned from her current position and immediately began to work at the new position2. In an attempt to forestall such staggering losses, employers have begun to monitor their employees access but at additional costs. These not only include the cost of installing monitoring devices but also lost wages for the employees’ time while using electronic mail and surfing for non-work related items on the internet at work.

Commentary Section

In their research, Crampton and Mishra (1998) suggest that it may be objected that civil law is different from morals in that it can take cognizance only of facts that are perceptually discerned; it has nothing to do with an unexpressed trend of thought. It therefore deals with concrete cases, single exertions of will, events that can for the time be entirely separated from all other facts in the agent’s experience3. It is this consideration that makes it extremely important for any man who has been charged with an actionable offense to establish a complete alibi. If he can prove to the satisfaction of the court that he was present at another place at the specific hour when the crime was committed, he is perforce relieved of the charge and his case dismissed. Crampton and Mishra (1998 objectively describe the situation and are correct stating that the court will insist on knowing all the incidents that led up to the act in question–his movements prior to the act, his habits of life, his usual rendezvous–all material facts, but the essential point is the deed4.

In the research article, Friedman (2004) describes that it is liable to be repeated and must therefore partake of certain enduring properties that have already appeared in his perceptions. Whether by the influence of private reflection or of public imitation, all moral behavior is described in terms of general concepts5. In either case, the presence and authority of memory signify that the act is not a detached and unrelated fact of consciousness but a type of behavior embodying the fixed tendencies of the agent. Napoleon, we may suspect, did not for the first time conceive a plan of escape from a difficult situation. The resources of the animal mind suggested its form and his own career furnished abundant examples of the component parts of such a scheme. Hence, memory as well as instinct is a law of nature, and its significance for moral conduct is enormous. Thus, it would be vain to entertain a sense of obligation to one’s neighbor if memory could give no clear instruction as to who the neighbor is or on what grounds the claims of obligation rest. The continuity of moral behavior is based on this assumption6.

It is possible to agree with Friedman (2004) that uncertainty of how an employer will use information gathered while monitoring their employees is a trust issue that is based upon the interaction between management and their employees. If an employer sees a reason not to trust his employees the employer will be more aggressive in monitoring online sites and email. In the reverse the employees’ perception of how trustworthy an employer determines how much the employee will believe an employer is simply using monitoring for security reasons. The employees’ believes can be based on the employer’s history when dealing with his employees or on that employees experiences with prior employers. In a study done by Tabak and Smith (2005), employees who view their employers as trustworthy would be less inclined to be disturbed by the monitoring and those that view their employers as not trustworthy would be more inclined to question the reasons for and usages of the results of the monitoring7.

Kim (2006) states that an additional point of contention between companies and employees is the employees’ use of chat rooms or blog sites. The employer is usually held liable if an employee enters a chat room and makes defamatory remarks regarding other chat room participants; or if the employee makes derogatory remarks on line about other employees that he works with. Generally cases where an employee has participated in this type of activity the access was from a computer on site at the place of business. Because the activity dealt with employees that the person worked with and involved another employee searching the internet finding the posts, the second employee informed the employer. If the employer does not take some type of action to correct the problem the company becomes an accessory in the action and is held liable for the first employees’ activity. It is possible to agree with this author that given the concept as the interpretation of behavior, we may next inquire (2) whether it is simply a name for action or whether it must be accepted as an obligatory form of conduct. A new factor is introduced, called by such terms as duty, sense of right, moral authority, dictate of reason, conscience. It implies that the concepts of loyalty, veracity, justice, should be deliberately incorporated into our manner of thought. We then have a situation very different from that which confronts the artist or the logician8.

The article “No Privacy for E-Mail at Work” (2004) criticizes lack of privacy and protection of employees. Again this raises questions for the employees about their individual rights since the employer did not find the posts on their own but relied on a third party to relay that information to them. In cases where a third party has informed the employer of their employees’ activity the courts have remained adamant that these cases will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for their validity9. However, the courts have consistently ruled that a business’ security concerns takes priority over individual employee rights while at work and allows employers to monitor internet and email communications. As mentioned above, to protect the corporate entity from potential attacks by ‘hackers’ accessing customer information, litigation naming the company as a co-defendant in lawsuits for employee misconduct, and criminal charges for illegal conduct performed by an employee while using the companies internet and email, employers have found it necessary to install and maintain more sophisticated monitoring software. In order to protect themselves from accusations of invasion of privacy from their employees the employers also have to attempt to balance their employees’ right to privacy with the need to provide a secure online office environment10.

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Hahn and Layne-Farrar (2005) argue that man’s behavior is anticipatively envisaged in the action of certain types of animals, but the attention bestowed upon the human infant is explicit and prolonged, intermitted only under the stress of such emotions as fear, chagrin, or jealousy. Comparative analyses are hard to make; but, unless every symptom is wrong, the affection of the parent for the child possesses at least some of the quality of social interest. Even if we construe affection as the assertion of proprietary rights, we still have the element of moral relationship which requires explanation. The simple data of experience confirm the hypothesis that man is a social being. The hypothesis is further supported by the tendency to objectivity which distinguishes man from all other animate creatures11.

Conclusion

In spite of changing nature of workforce relations, employers should use personal information only in those instances for which consent is granted, and inform employees about information gathering and monitoring in the workplace. Loyalty is a fine moral virtue, but we must examine critically the ends to which its zeal is to be directed. Thus, it is my duty to seek the unemotional facts in my scientific research, to be unmoved by censure or reproach or threat, to speak the truth without fear or reservation, to hold to my deductions until good evidence yields a better solution to the problem In every case the moral act carries with it an inescapable constraint that points to an object beyond the confines of the immediate field of behavior.

References

Crampton, S.M., Mishra, J.M. (1998). Employee Monitoring: Privacy in the Workplace? SAM Advanced Management Journal, 63 (3), 4

Friedman, W. H. (2004). Perspectives on Privacy. The Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 4 (1-2), 244-250.

Hahn, R. W., Layne-Farrar, A. (2006). The Law and Economics of Software Security. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. 30 (1), 283-288.

Kim, E.K.J. (2006). The New Electronic Discovery Rules: A Place for Employee Privacy? Yale Law Journal, 115 (6), 1481.

No Privacy for E-Mail at Work. (2004). The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR),p. G2.

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Tippett, P. S., O’Neill, D. T. (2001). Managing Information Security Risk 2001. ABA Banking Journal, 93 (2001), 32.

Footnotes

  1. Crampton, S.M., Mishra, J.M. (1998). Employee Monitoring: Privacy in the Workplace? SAM Advanced Management Journal, 63 (3), 4.
  2. No Privacy for E-Mail at Work. (2004). The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR), p. G2.
  3. Crampton, S.M., Mishra, J.M. (1998). Employee Monitoring: Privacy in the Workplace? SAM Advanced Management Journal, 63 (3), 4.
  4. Ibid., 4.
  5. Friedman, W. H. (2004). Perspectives on Privacy. The Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 4 (1-2), 244.
  6. Friedman, W. H. (2004). Perspectives on Privacy. The Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 4 (1-2), 247.
  7. Ibid., 245.
  8. Kim, E.K.J. (2006). The New Electronic Discovery Rules: A Place for Employee Privacy? Yale Law Journal, 115 (6), 1481.
  9. Kim, E.K.J. (2006). The New Electronic Discovery Rules: A Place for Employee Privacy? Yale Law Journal, 115 (6), 1481.
  10. No Privacy for E-Mail at Work. (2004). The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR), G2.
  11. Hahn, R. W., Layne-Farrar, A. (2006). The Law and Economics of Software Security. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. 30 (1), 283-288.
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