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Example research essay topic: Human Resource Professionals Ethics In The Workplace - 2,891 words

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Business Ethics is emerging as one of the greatest recognized needs in business and government today. No other element in business life can profit so greatly for such a small investment. Lacking this, no other element can cost business so dearly. Therefore it is important for top management within organization to foster the type of organization environment that would be capable of supporting basic principles of ethics. To start, one must ask; what is ethics? In its most basic form, ethics involves learning what is right or wrong, and then doing the right thing.

However, the right thing is not as straightforward as conveyed in a great deal of business ethics literature. Most ethical dilemmas in the workplace are not simply a matter of "Should Robert steal from Jane?" or "Should Jack lie to his boss?" Many philosophers consider ethics to be the "science of conduct. " Others explain that ethics includes the fundamental ground rules by which we live our lives. Philosophers have been discussing ethics for at least 2500 years, since the time of Socrates and Plato. Many ethicist's consider emerging ethical beliefs to be state of the art legal matters.

For example, what becomes an ethical guideline today is often translated to a law, regulation or rule tomorrow. Values that guide how one ought to behave are considered moral values, e. g. , values such as respect, honesty, fairness, responsibility, etc. Statements around how these values are applied are sometimes called moral or ethical principles. The concept of business ethics has come to mean different things to different people, but usually it is coming to know the difference between what it right or wrong in the workplace and doing what is right. This is in regard to effects of products / services and in relationships with stakeholders.

Attention to business ethics is critical during times of fundamental change -- times much like those faced now by businesses. In times of fundamental change, values that were previously taken for granted are now strongly questioned. Many of these values are no longer followed. Consequently, there is no clear moral compass to guide leaders through complex dilemmas about what is right or wrong.

Attention to ethics in the workplace sensitizes leaders and staff to how they should act. Perhaps most important, attention to ethics in the workplaces helps ensure that when leaders and managers are struggling in times of crises and confusion, they retain a strong moral compass. Many people react that business ethics with its continuing attention to doing the right thing, which only asserts the obvious, and so they do not take business ethics seriously. For many of us, these principles of the obvious can go right out the door during times of stress. Consequently, business ethics can be strong preventative medicine in times of a crisis. Maynard M.

Dolecheck and Carolyn C. Dolecheck write that, A New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted in 1985 revealed that 55 percent of the American public believe that the vast majority of corporate executives are dishonest, and 59 percent think that executive white-collar crime occurs on a regular basis. A 1987 Wall Street Journal article noted that one-fourth of the 671 executives surveyed by a leading research firm believed that ethics can impede a successful career, and that over one-half of all the executives they knew bent the rules to get ahead. Most recently, a 1996 national survey published by Prentice Hall concluded that the standards of ethical practice and moral leadership of business leaders merit at best a C grade. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed believed that the unethical behavior of executives is the primary cause of the decline in business standards, productivity, and success. The survey further suggested that because of the perceived low ethical standards of the executive class, workers feel justified in responding in kind -- through absenteeism, petty theft, indifference, and a generally poor performance on the job.

Many workers openly admitted that they spend more than eight hours a week of their time at work totally goofing off. Almost half of those surveyed admitted to chronic malingering on a regular basis. One in six of the workers surveyed said that they drank or used drugs on the job. Three out of four workers reported that their primary reason for working was to keep the boss off their back; only one in four claimed to give his or her "best effort" to the job. The survey concluded that the standards equation of the American workplace is a simple one: American workers are as ethical / dutiful in doing their jobs as their bosses and companies are perceived to be ethical / dutiful in leading and directing them. (Patterson and Kim 1 - 22) There are ten common myths about business ethics. The first myth is: Business ethics is more a matter of religion than management.

Diane Kirrane, asserts that "altering people's values or souls isn't the aim of an organizational ethics program -- managing values and conflict among them is... " The second myth is: Our employees are ethical so we don't need attention to business ethics. Almost all ethical decisions that managers face in the workplace are highly complex. Kirrane mentions, When the topic of business ethics comes up, people are quick to speak of the Golden Rule, honesty and courtesy. But when presented with complex ethical dilemmas, most people realize there's a wide gray area when trying to apply ethical principles. Business ethics is a discipline best led by philosophers, academics and theologians, is the third myth. This idea lacks the involvement of leaders and managers who are make the decisions, and cause the belief that business ethics is primarily a complex philosophical debate or a religion.

The fourth myth is that Business ethics is superfluous, it only asserts the obvious: do good! The value of a code of ethics to an organization should be a priority with a focus on certain ethical values in that workplace. For example, its obvious that all people should be honest. However, if an organization is struggling around continuing occasions of deceit in the workplace, a priority on honesty is very timely -- and honesty should be listed in that organizations code of ethics. A code of ethics is an organic instrument that should change with the needs of society and the organization. Business ethics is a matter of the good guys preaching to the bad guys, is the fifth myth.

People who are well versed in managing organizations realize that good people can take bad actions, particularly when stressed or confused. Stress or confusion are not excuses for unethical actions, they are a reason. The management of ethics in the workplace should include all employees working together to help each other remain ethical through confusing and stressful ethical dilemmas. The sixth myth, Business ethics in the new police person on the block, occurs because many people believe business ethics is a recent phenomenon due in part to its increased attention in recent times. However, business ethics was written about even 2, 000 years ago. Ethics can't be managed is the seventh myth.

In fact, ethics is always managed. Often times it is done indirectly. For example, the behavior of an organization's founder or current leader has a strong moral influence on the behavior or employees in the workplace. Strategic priorities can have very strong influences on morality.

Laws, regulations and rules directly influence behaviors to be more ethical, usually in a manner that improves the general good and / or minimizes harm to the community. Some are still skeptical about business ethics, believing you can't manage values in an organization. Donaldson and Davis (Management Decision, V 28, N 6) note that, management, after all, is a value system. Skeptics might consider the tremendous influence of several codes of ethics, such as the 10 Commandments in Christian religions or the U. S. Constitution.

Codes can be very powerful in smaller as well. The eighth myth is that Business ethics and social responsibility are the same thing. While the social responsibility movement is one aspect of the overall discipline of business ethics, Madsen and Shafritz refine the definition of business ethics to be An application of ethics to the corporate community, a way to determine responsibility in business dealings, the identification of important business and social issues, and a critique of business. Todays writings about social responsibility do not address practical matters of managing ethics in the workplace, such as developing codes, updating polices and procedures, approaches to resolving ethical dilemmas. Our organization is not in trouble with the law, so we " re ethical, is the ninth myth. The mere notion that an organization might even think such a thing is absurd.

One can often be unethical, yet operate within the limits of the law. Examples previous to the current corporate scandals include; withhold information from superiors, doctor the budget, constantly complaining about others and much more. Unethical behavior that has gone unnoticed usually precedes breaking the law. The "boil the frog" analogy is a useful parable here: When you put a frog in hot water, it immediately jumps out. If you put a frog in cool water and slowly heat up the water, you can eventually boil the frog. In other words one doesn't seem to notice the adverse changes in its environment, until it is too late.

The last myth in Managing Ethics in the workplace has little practical relevance. To manage ethics in the workplace one must identify and prioritize values to guide behaviors of the organization and its employees. Then policies and procedures must be established to ensure those behaviors are followed. This has been called value management. Value management is equally important in management disciplines such as diversity management and strategic planning. Individuals within an organization can hold and practice core values; however, that does not mean that the organization as a whole is ethical.

To build an ethical organization, its leadership must establish, publish, and model the companys core values. While each organization should establish its own ethical framework, one might suggest that two cornerstones must be in place in order to build an ethical organization: mutual trust and respect. In personal interviews conducted with 100 Human Resource practitioners across the United States in 1999 and 2000, these two characteristics surfaced time and again as critical components of ethical organizations. In an organization in which respect is a demonstrated value, employees and managers treat each other with dignity and make it known that they care about the work they perform. The organizations leadership fosters initiative and creativity.

Individual differences and perspectives are appreciated and promoted. All employees, regardless of their position, are recognized and rewarded for their contributions. In an organization where trust is prevalent, information is accurate, timely, and complete. Coworkers share their ideas and concerns.

People at all levels accept suggestions for ways to improve the work. Alternatives are discussed freely, and clear and concrete goals are developed and shared across the organization. There are clues within the organizational culture if trust and respect are not part of the cultural fabric. One indicator of a weak ethics system is Scapegoating. If scapegoating is a common phenomenon in an organization, this is a red flag that failure may not be tolerated and it is necessary to hide mistakes or errors in judgment. When customer complaints occur, perhaps employees blame everyone else, or every other department.

When goals are not achieved, there may always seem to be someone elses doorstep on which to lay the fault. Another indicator of a weak ethics system is abdicating responsibility. When the time comes to make a decision and stand by that decision or action, how do people in the organization respond? If common excuses are, I am not aware of any problems, I asked Joe to handle that. Then this is a good indicator of abdication behavior. Members of an ethical organization accept responsibility for themselves and their direct reports, if they have them.

Period. A third indicator of a weak ethics system is over promising. One might hear that, this company is the best place to work in the county, or that the promotion path here is extremely fast. In some organizations this might be true, but in other cases managers might use these kinds of statements frequently without knowing whether they are really true. If the norm is making brash, optimistic and possibly untrue statements to achieve a short-term result, this is an indicator of a weak ethics system. In todays rapidly changing marketplace, companies must be highly flexible to meet customer demands.

The result is that employees must be prepared to shift gears and learn new skills or serve on various work teams to complete projects. When an organization has employees that hoard information and jealously guard their turf for any reason, productivity may suffer and resentment can build. This kind of behavior indicates that people dont trust their knowledge or expertise in someone elses hands. Another indicator is if employees are allowed to barely get by and still be rewarded with a paycheck and even promotions.

Is mediocrity accepted because it is too difficult to fire people who are not really competent? If an organization takes the easy way out and tolerates employees who are negative and only partially productive, long-term success is jeopardized. Human Resource professionals are in a unique position to observe the organizations ethics and serve as a catalyst for change if the ethics system is weak. Human Resource professionals can, and should, serve as role models for the organizations core values.

An example of an ethical decision, that is being praised, made at an organization is ironically one made by an Enron employee. Sharon Watkins, who was an Enron financial vice president, sent a letter of warning to CEO Kenneth Lay, telling him the companys finances were in a mess. The question of should Watkins have gone further than the CEO has been asked several times. Bill Relate, founder of the Center for Values Based Leadership, states that, "If somebody doesn't get a fair response internally, they have the right to go anonymously to the SEC. " However Margaret Blair, of the Georgetown University Law Center, says, Watkins did the right thing, and action beyond that becomes tricky. In most cases, an employee is not legally obligated to go to the Securities and Exchange Commission or other law enforcement, when something wrong is discovered.

However there might be a moral obligation, one that is not so easy to fulfill because the lives of whistle-blowers are disrupted and often times ruined. This is a real problem, which seems to be taught early on. Barbara Ley Toffler an adjunct professor at the Columbia Business School says, "It's a real sticky situation, most who don't get fired are at least excluded from sensitive meetings as blabbermouths. From grade school on, Americans don't treat tattletales kindly. The following are examples of organizations that have recently made or been affected by some decision (s) that are considered unethical by todays standards; WorldCom, Im Clone, Martha Stewart Living, Tyco, Adelphia, Enron, Rite Aid, Global Crossing, Dynegy, Bridgestone/Firestone, and Arthur Anderson. Many of these organizations are accused of misstating earnings, which help keep stock prices high.

One Tyco top executive has been accused of tax fraud and evasion. Im Clones top executive has been accused of insider trading along with Martha Stewart. Adelphias top executives have been arrested on fraud charges. Arthur Anderson has been the Auditor for most of these companies, and had been found guilty on obstruction of justice charges. The list seems to go on and on. On July 30 th 2002 at 10: 15, President Bush signed into law H.

R. 3763, the "Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. " The Act adopts tough new provisions to deter and punish corporate and accounting fraud and corruption, ensures justice for wrongdoers, and protects the interests of workers and shareholders. The bill improves the quality and transparency of financial reporting, independent audits, and accounting services for public companies. It also created a Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to enforce professional standards, ethics, and competence for the accounting profession, strengthens the independence of firms that audit public companies, increases corporate responsibility and the usefulness of corporate financial disclosure, increases penalties for corporate wrongdoing, protects the objectivity and independence of securities analysts, and increases Securities and Exchange Commission resources. Under the new law, CEOs and chief financial officers must personally vouch for the truth and fairness of their company's disclosures. Corporate officials will play by the same rules as their employees.

In the periods when workers are prevented from buying and selling company stock in their pensions or 401 (k) s, corporate officials will also be banned from any buying or selling. This will help stop insider trading. The new law will help ensure that corporate misdeeds are found and punished, by authorizing new funding for investigators and technology at the SEC to uncover wrongdoing. It also gives the SEC the administrative authority to bar dishonest directors and officers from ever again serving in positions of corporate responsibility.

This new law is the first step in the many to come to ensure that organizations and its employees adhere to ethics in its simplest form, the difference between right and wrong, and ensure one does the right thing.


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Research essay sample on Human Resource Professionals Ethics In The Workplace

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