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... appears to provide new perspectives and better understanding of what creates unethical behavior. Strong moral directives can be the main component of an organizations culture. It defines appropriate employee actions. However, not all organizations work hard to identify inappropriate behavior or values. (1). Many small business cultures are neither moral or immoral, but amoral.
Organization culture is a broad and complex topic. Essentially, this force or culture is comprised of the dominant underlying assumptions commonly shared and accepted by organizational members (Deal & Kennedy, 1982). In order to fully understand culture, three aspects of Deal and Kennedy's definition need to be examined. First, assumptions are considered dominant and underlying if they are of primary importance to the success of day-to-day business operations.
Second, these assumptions are based on the beliefs and values which indicate what is desirable and acceptable by the business owners and managers. And finally, the common sharing and acceptance of these assumptions implies that the organization members view them as an acceptable standard for conducting business and integrate them into their own beliefs and values. 7 Moral values then provide the basis for standards or norms of conduct and become guides for employees. The first and most visible level of culture deals with the observable behavioral manifestations of the culture. Examples would be the customary words and phrases that are peculiar to a given organization, a common physical layout in executive or management offices, and the actions and decisions made by management. It is said that people usually tend to identify the visible cultural traits for they provide a basic familiarity for assimilation and operation.
The second level of culture involves the espoused organizational values. These values, often representing the views and opinions of management, identify what "ought" to be. This values are stated or printed publicly and are often debated and tested through business operations. A fairly typical example would be where a small manufacturing business experiences a drop in orders and the owner finds it necessary to reduce costs. However, the owner views her / his employees as family and treats them as such. So while work hours are reduced, no employees are eliminated, no layoffs occur and no jobs are lost.
In this example, the owner has taken an overt action based on a specific and recognized value. 8 Over time, these values will become commonly accepted, shared, internalized, and used by organizational members. These shared and fully accepted values then represent the third level of culture and, accordingly, most implicitly and forcefully guide employee perceptions, feelings, and actions. The application of those values in the decisions provides a demonstration the owner's commitment to ethical behavior and continued demonstration reinforces those values and leads to a general acceptance of the ethical values among organization members. Developing appropriate ethical values must involve more than ethical statements.
The organization must develop a series of on-going steps that will support the business values. Key owner support activities would include the reinforcing of those values during new employee orientation & training. In such a setting, the owner could convey her / his expectations regarding ethical behavior, stress their significance, and clearly identify the cost of non-compliance. Additionally, open discussion of ethical issues should not be seen as being inappropriate topics for employee meetings, group decision meetings, or planning sessions. The second suggested action, giving ethical behavior a high priority within the organization, is essential if the owner truly wants employees to adopt and exhibit such behavior. Such behaviors must be seen as significant and high priority values for the business and its operations.
The higher the ranking of those values in relation to other business activities, the greater the influence on employee attention to and acceptance of those behaviors. 9 While providing consistent support of ethical values may seem to be an obvious requirement, however true consistency of support is often lacking. It is ok to stress that it is important to recognize that consistency of values occurs on two levels: consistency throughout the entire organization and consistency across a variety of business situations. (5). The first level would also seem to be a fairly obvious one where the values professed by the business owner are the same as those accepted by the rest of the employees. However, consistency can be established only through specific organizational actions. This check and balance system would allow for employee and owner input, comment, and inquiry in order to assure and promote an increased atmosphere of consistency.
Consistency in dealing with a variety of business situations asserts that the entire organization adhere to the same values and standards regardless of any situational pressures or influences. One of the best ways to determine the true culture and underlying values is to observe how the business responds to emergency or crisis situations. For example, one way of determining the consistency of the business's values would be to determine if the organization reacts one way, or have one standard response regarding issues with the average customer but then utilize a different response for the high volume customer. The final action that would foster a positive ethical culture is that of internalizing the values with the organization's employees. (1). The process of internalizing values is highly individualized and occurs slowly and subconsciously. It is worthy to identify that organization members will accept values when they believe it is advantageous to do so.
The key point is that there must be some type of organization-wide reward and disciplinary system to reinforce the desired value. The lack of such support is frequently a major stumbling block to the internalization process and a key deterrent to establishing the desired ethical climate. Additionally, there is a notion that employees are usually rewarded for job performance and task / project results, regardless of how they are achieved. Given this type of reward mechanism, a commitment to produce financially-oriented results quickly and consistently, is strongly reinforced. Additionally, due to the size and structure of most small businesses, the number of advancement opportunities for employees is severely limited. Consequently, the employee becomes even more focused on obtaining the required results which, hopefully, earn an increased level of compensation.
The relationship between organizational culture and ethical values is one that is complicated and involved; especially in a small business. Achieving the desired employee values takes time, commitment, consistency, support, and rewards. It starts by hiring the right employee and continues through providing rewards based on demonstrating acceptance and adherence to organizational values or standards. The challenge for the small business owner is to establish clear moral values and give them high priority, visibility and consistency in order to support internalization by employees. Such activities are difficult and require a significant expenditure of attention, energy, and commitment. In the face of today's competitive pressures, the task of nurturing an ethical business environment often competes with the pressure to improve the bottom-line.
How well a small business owner balances these pressures will determine the degree of success and satisfaction both the owner and the employees will achieve. (5). The hypothesis that strong cultures, defined as "a set of norms and values that are widely shared and strongly held throughout the organization." This hypothesis is based on the intuitively powerful idea that organizations benefit from having highly motivated employees dedicated to common goals. If we add all the discussed issues above about ethical values, we will come to our own hypothesis that if managers intergrateculture and ethical values into the work place, then it is expected that employees performance will improve. In particular, the performance benefits of a strong corporate culture are thought to derive from three consequences of having widely shared and strongly held norms and values: enhanced coordination and control within the firm, improved goal alignment between the firm and its members, and increased employee effort. In support of this argument, quantitative analyses have shown that firms with strong cultures outperform firms with weak cultures. The existing literature on the relationship between culture strength and performance focuses on the consequences of strong cultures for performance levels but has not examined how strong cultures affect performance variability, or the reliability of firm performance.
This is surprising, since the arguments relating culture strength to performance draw particular attention to the benefits of having greater internal consistency in goals and behaviors. One should therefore expect strong-culture firms to exhibit less variable performance. 10 Firms with strong cultures incur a tradeoff with respect to their adaptive ability in the face of environmental change. Strong corporate cultures facilitate reliable performance in relatively stable environments. Good ethical behavior and values are considered to be the prime company asset. Substantial ethical foundation is one of the important components for long-term business success.
All these together, working in synergy, lead to the improvement of employees performance. Bibliography: Barry & Nelson. Business ethics: Ethical decision making and cases. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Finegan, 1994.
Deal & Kennedy. Organization & corporate cultures. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley. Ferrell, O. C. & Friedrich, J. , 1882. Kotter John and James L.
Haskett. Corporate Culture and Performance. New York: Free Press, 1992. Levinthal. The Ethics of Management (Second Edition). Homewood, IL: Richard D.
Irwin, Inc. , 1991. Milton-Smith. Culture and Ethics at Work Place. New York: The Viking Press, 1995. Rachel's, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy.
New York: Random House, 1986. Schein. Moral issues in business. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Corporate ethics: A prime business asset, 1989. web web
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