Ethical versus Unethical Behavior Carlos Mercado University of Phoenix MGT 344 November 17, 2007 Ethical versus Unethical Behavior Companies establish ethics policies as a way to identify expectations of workers and to offer guidance on handling common ethical problems that might arise in the course of doing business. For an organization to determine whether a behavior is ethical or unethical, the terms must be defined.
The term ethical behavior refers to how an organization ensures that all its decisions, actions, and stakeholder interactions conform to the organization’s moral and professional principles; where as, unethical behaviors are considered when the actions of employees are not conforming to social or professional standards. Consequently, the purpose of this paper is to explain what factors determine whether behavior in organizations is ethical or unethical.
Factors that Determine Unethical Behavior In today’s business environment, pressure and stress to accomplish higher goals in a tighter time frame can cause companies to slip into unethical decisions and behaviors. According to a global survey commissioned by the American Management Association – which included over 1,000 managers and human resource experts, the number one factor that is likely to cause unethical corporate behavior is business objectives and deadlines (Schwartz, 2006).
Other factors such as furthering one’s career and protecting one’s livelihood rank second and third, respectively in creating an atmosphere where unethical behavior can occur (Schwartz, 2006). Some additional factors that lead to unethical behavior is having to work in an environment with cynical people or an atmosphere of diminished morale; improper training; and no consequences when caught. These factors are followed by the need to follow orders, peer pressure, desire to steal from or harm the organization, and paradoxically, wanting to help the organization survive (Schwartz, 2006).
Most people face a lot of stress in their daily life, there never seems to be enough time or money for things people need. Yet companies continue to expect employees to do more work with less people and resources, which can cause stress. Technology is replacing jobs historically done by humans and, last but not least, managers are just managers and not leaders. Factors that Determine Ethical Behavior The ethical criteria of gain should be considered when determining whether a decision or practice is ethical. Simply asking the question “who stands to gain from the decision? will assist in making that determination. Having a clear policy on ethical behavior is also a valuable tool. By creating an ethical climate within an organization, an environment is established that is conducive to ethical behaviors as well as protection from liability. Under the U. S. Sentencing Commission’s guidelines, “an effective ethics program may protect organizations from criminal penalties or lessen their impact should an employee violate federal law” (Fiorelli, 1992). Examples of Unethical Behavior
An example of unethical behavior focuses on an employee’s desire not to fill out paperwork while also following a company’s desire for sales. A consumer purchased a light fixture at a local hardware store. When the box was opened, the light fixture was broken and the consumer returned it to the store. A very helpful employee found the same light fixture, opened the box for the consumer to see that everything was fine and stated that since the consumer had the receipt; it would be considered an even exchange. The consumer decided to look around and do more shopping.
Upon passing the aisle where the employee had helped her, the consumer observed the employee putting the broken fixture back in the box and placing it back on the shelf. When asked why he was doing this (and pointing out that another consumer would be purchasing a broken item), the employee responded that he did not wish to fill out the paperwork on the returned item. Another example focuses on the United States Postal Service. According to the rules and regulations of the Postal Service they have a policy called “zero tolerance” which states, “The Postal Service will prevent acts of violence in the workplace. A maintenance mechanic in Houston, Texas was removed from his position for making threatening remarks against a supervisor in the presence of two co-workers. The Postal Service charged him with “Improper Conduct/Violation of the Zero Tolerance Policy on Violence in the Work Place. ” Several minor infractions can also be seen as unethical behavior. A Postal worker was caught utilizing a company computer to view nude pictures. According to the rules, computers can be utilized for personal use at a minimum but not for anything that would be criminal or against the regulation (PostalReporter, 2006).
Additionally, ethical problems in the workplace are commonly depicted in unethical behavior by an employee “borrowing” office supplies for their home, “unintentionally” falsifying documents, or “pinching” money from the organization. Nonetheless, a company must create and employ measures to determine whether a particular action or behavior is deemed ethical or unethical. Ethical Behavior Factors and Responsibility Leaders should act as role models for ethical principles of behavior.
The principles must apply to all individuals involved in the organization, from employees to members of the board of directors, and need to be communicated and reinforced on a regular basis. Although there is no universal model for ethical behavior, leaders should ensure that the organization’s mission and vision are aligned with its ethical principles. Thus, companies must create ethics policies for the purpose of maintaining professional standards for the good of the company; for example, a written code of conduct or code of ethics are formal principles created for the reason of upholding professional responsibility (Fiorelli, 1992).
Furthermore, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (2007) illustrates decisive factors for making an ethical judgment, which are the utilitarian approach, the rights approach, the fair or justice approach, the common good approach, and the virtue approach. Each approach would have its own criteria for ethical decision-making. Needless to say, “making a good ethical decision requires a trained sensitivity to ethical issues and practiced method for exploring the ethical aspects of a decision and weighing the considerations that could impact our choice of action” (2007).
Conclusion Ethical behavior refers to how an organization ensures that all its decisions, actions, and stakeholder interactions conform to the organization’s moral and professional principles. However, there are factors that can contribute to unethical behavior(s) in the work place. Therefore, companies must establish ethic policies for the purpose of implementing guidelines; more so, managers and associates can make moral decisions for the good of the company. References: A Framework for Thinking Ethically. (2007). Retrieved November 15, 2007 from: http://www. cu. edu/ethics/practicing/decision/framework. html Fiorelli, P. (1992). Fine Reductions Through Effective Ethics Programs: 56 Albany L. REV 403,407: U. S.. Sentencing Commission, 2004 PostalReport. com Blog (2006). Retrieved November 18, 2007 from: http://www. postalreporter. com/news/2006/07/26/postal-worker-fired-for-violating-usps-zero-tolerance-policy/ Schwartz, A. (June, 2006). Likely causes of corporate unethical behavior. GoStructural. com. Retrieved November 13, 2007 from: http://www. gostructural. com/article. asp? id=842