Ethics Essay, Research Paper
As we are heading into the 21st century, we see that more and more companies are trying to observe the rules of business ethics. My paper is about the situations that can arise from implementing and not implementing business ethics into the workforce.
Ethics is defined as a systematic study of moral conduct, duty, and judgment. Certainly, ethical behavior has always been important for organizations and individuals; however, today more and more attention is being paid to ethical concerns. Why? There are two basic answers to that question. One, is due to the coverage given to business through television, radio, and newspapers, we are more aware of unethical practices. For example, if an airline has a crash that kills hundreds of people and the cause is faulty equipment due to improper maintenance by the airlines, the public knows it quickly due to extensive media coverage. If a food company puts a product on the market with a food additive that may cause illness or even death, the public is informed through television, radio, and newspapers. The result of such instances is public demand of improved safety and health regulations and management accountability.
Two, is technology has advanced so far today that horrendous uses of it are possible. For example, medical science has expanded to the point that ethics are of major consideration. Some of the questions we hear debated are: Does an individual have the right to determine when to die and seek assistance with death? How long should a seriously ill patient be kept alive through artificial means? How much money should be spent on health care for the poor? With the genetic work that is being done to determine links between genetics and cancer, obesity, and so forth, is it ever right for parents to decide to abort a fetus? Is it ethical to insert a growth hormone into children who have no growth hormone deficiency, but who seem to be on growth curves shorter than their parents would like? There is now a growing body of evidence that some criminal and aggressive behavior has a genetic basis. If science proves the linkage, is it right to abort the fetus? All are a linked to the ethics debate.
Our technological communication capabilities also pose some questions. With international communication occurring through the Internet and the World Wide Web, what privacy rights does the individual have? What constitutes sexual harassment over the Internet? Obviously, these ethical questions are only a few of the issues that we are facing. As technology continues to open new doors for all of us, ethical questions will continue to occur. The point to be made here is that great wisdom on the part of leadership in business and individuals who are employed by business is required now and in the future to face and solve the ethical issues which will confront us. (http://www.seattletimes.com/news/business/html98/ethx_040698.html)
BUSINESSES AND THEIR ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITY
Business enterprise is the dominant institution in America and in the world, and the ethics and values of business influence our society. Highly successful business leaders are quoted in the news and their behavior is observed and often imitated by others, not only in their particular business but also in the nation and the world.
The influence of business on society and the influence of corporate leaders on individuals, however, are not always positive. Inferior products and services, environmental pollution, unsafe working conditions, unfair treatment of employees, and various other unethical behaviors are sometimes the outcomes of poorly run businesses and leaders who misuse their power and authority. When business leadership is practiced irresponsibly, our society and individuals within it are often the losers. (http://www.seattletimes.com/news/business/html98/ethx_040698.html)
Ethics has become so important that it is the topic of numerous books, the subject of seminars, and the basis for consulting businesses. A company or organization can succeed or fail due to its ethical behavior. There should be much attention paid to the following guidelines on ethical practice in business.
An ethical organization is honest. It makes its policies and procedures clear to both its customers and its employees. It is concerned about equal treatment for individuals, regardless of ethnicity, and handicap. There should be effective practices to make sure that these procedures are upheld. Some of these are: A clearly stated policy committing to equal employment, hiring procedures that support equal employment, personnel departments with expertise in assisting people with special issues, grievance policies that are clearly stated, published, and distributed to all employees, sensitivity training for all employees in understanding how to work with diversity, so it is clear to both management and employees. (http://www.seattletimes.com/news/business/html98/ethx_040698.html)
EFFECTS OF ETHICS ON CORPORATE AMERICA
Spurred in part by costly legal settlements, a growing number of companies are changing the way they handle employees complaints about ethics violations, discrimination, and sexual harassment. The rising concern hasn t eliminated workplace complaints. A poll of 2,000 U.S. employees released last month by Indianapolis-based Walker Information, found that 41 percent of workers say that they re aware of unethical or illegal behavior going on in the office.
In the Pacific Northwest, Boeing is facing an 82 million dollar racial discrimination lawsuit, while Eagle Hardware and Starbucks Coffee both are defending themselves against sexual harassment lawsuits, and last week, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was sued by a former employee of Storyopolis Investment, an interactive-media company backed by Allen. The employee claims Allen sexually harassed her, though Allen denied that in a statement.
These high amounts of lawsuits raise the question of whether all the corporate ethics reforms are making a difference. It s much too early to give up hope, but it s also much too early to claim success, said Michael Josephson, president of the Joseph and Edna Josephson institute of Ethics, Los Angeles nonprofit organization. For the most part, business has been dragged kicking and screaming into this field, Josephson said. Its clearly growing, and it will continue to grow, simply because the costs of unethical behavior are continuing to skyrocket. (http://www.seattletimes.com/news/business/html98/ethx_040698.html)
From the above-mentioned situations a great cause and effect situation has taken place. Boeing and Weyerhauser are among the Northwest companies that have set up offices with full-time employees devoted exclusively to business conduct. Nike, reeling in negative publicity from allegations of poor working conditions and low wages overseas, recruited a Microsoft executive earlier this year to oversee ethics issues. Other local companies, such as Starbucks and Microsoft, say they train human resources personnel to address ethics complaints. Maria Eitel, Nike s new vice president for corporate and social responsibility, conceded that much of business newfound concern has been prompted by soaring liability policies, Eitel said, are grounded in sincere, proactive thinking. I m not saying it s pure to the bone in every company, she said. But just by the fact that companies are putting resources into it is a sign of commitment. Because you really don t have to do it. Still, even companies with extensive policies aren t immune from accusations.
Boeing, which revamped its ethics programs in the early 1900s after it was convicted of accepting secret defense department documents, now operates both an Office of Ethics and Business Conduct and a toll-free ethics line. Yet last month, a group of 41 Boeing employees, 40 of them African-American, filed a class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination at Boeing plants in Everett, Renton, and Auburn. Oscar Desper III, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the class-action case, conceded that as a company, Boeing has tried to create an ethically sensitive culture. The problem, he said, is that middle managers haven t followed suit. Between upper management and people who implement policies on the floor, there s just a huge gap, Desper said.
In the case of Eagle Hardware, the company s allegedly lacking response to a sexual-harassment claim was a significant influence upon the jury s decision to award a former night stocker $280,000 for lost wages and benefits. Eagle s cost could exceed 1 million dollars. Eagle said its legal bills had reached about $700,000; an appeal may cost $40,000 more. Starbuck s meanwhile, is gearing up its defense for a lawsuit filed last month by three female employees who say that they were sexually harassed, then faced retaliation for reporting the complaints. The company said an independent investigator found no basis for the allegations.
While problems like these continue to surface in big companies, Frank Walker, chairman of Walker Information, said the results of his company s survey don t necessarily mean corporate ethics policies have been ineffectual. In fact, Walker said, the business ethics
Movement may have raised awareness among employees, prompting them to closer note of perceived misconduct. Walker noted that the survey found more than 22 percent men who said they re aware of sexual harassment at the office as opposed to 15 percent women who noticed the same thing. At first this percentage seemed surprising, but Walker added that men simply now have a heightened awareness of sexual harassment because of sensitivity training and seminars organized by many companies. I would speculate that s because corporate America is talking about this, especially to males, Walker said. (http://www.seattletimes.com/news/business/html98/ethx_040698.html)
Is a corporation fair towards its employees and customers out of a sense of duty or merely to boost its bottom line? The motivation does not really matter. What matters is that more and more corporations nowadays are adopting a code of ethics and trying to live by it. The trend will ultimately result in the creation of a kinder, more orderly society. It is a trend, all right. Unlike other trends, it is not likely to go away, not in a society becoming increasingly litigious, where whistle blowers of all kinds can make life difficult for the corporation that cuts corners.
In addition to the usual workers unions and consumer groups, the corporation must contend as well with environmental activities, civil rights movements, women s organizations, tribal communities, not to mention government regulatory agencies and the media. That a corporation should behave in an ethical manner is fairly obvious. To begin with, it should obey the laws. It should honor contracts, whether the contracts are implied or expressed, between itself and its suppliers and between itself and its customers.
Largely because of pressure exerted by reform-minded individuals and groups and the enactment of relevant laws, the corporation has been forced to change the way it views itself, from a mechanical model made up of tools and raw materials to a biological model composed essentially of sentiment human beings. One change needed no legislation to effect, and that was the change that occurred in the ownership structure of business. By sheer force of expediency, the single proprietorships and partnerships have given way to corporations, owned initially by a handful of investors and then, as they go public, by hundreds, if not thousands of people. As a result, the corporation is no longer private property in the traditional sense. The stockholder, having ceased to be the primary source of capital, does not determine the fate of the corporation anymore. He has yielded that power to mangers, who must look out for the interests not only of those who provide the initial capital but also of the employees, suppliers, consumers, and the general public. More than legislation and the change in ownership structure, a highly educated citizen has forced businesses to transform themselves from an enterprise concerned solely with profit to a responsible corporation. (http://www.inquirer.net/issues/jun99/jun07features/fea_3.htm)
STRIVING FOR ETHICAL EXCELLENCE
These days, people are aware of their rights and ready to act upon those rights. Workers now refuse to work for meager wages. With wider employment choices, they can more or less dictate their terms. They are fully aware that to compete in an increasingly sophisticated market, the corporation needs to hire the best people, not to raise the most capital. In the modern economic system, knowledge and skills are the decisive factors of production, more important by far than physical assets such as land or capital. In the old days, capital was a premium, with only a few able to get their hands on it. Not anymore. The corporation can easily raise funds through capital markets here and abroad, as long as it has a track record of turning out quality products and services, something that only a pool of highly educated, talented workers can provide. Customers are more demanding nowadays. No longer are they satisfied with quality products and services. The more sophisticated of them require that the corporation with whom they do business furnish solutions to their problems rather than just sell them products or services. If the corporation fails to respond adequately, they are likely to go to the competition. In a democracy, the general public has taken the upper hand. Human rights groups and advocates for this and that cause, not to mention government regulatory agencies, stand ready to hound a company that appears to exploit labor, for instance, or condone sexual harassment in the workplace.
As mentioned earlier, we live in a litigious society with people taking arms against any corporation that commits imagined or real offences. Woes to the firm that exploit sits workers, promote products with shoddy workmanship upon the public, or degrade the environment. An enraged group will sue it out of existence. If the corporation rears something though, it is not the legal sanctions but the ever-present possibility of boycott and social ostracism. That will surely lead to its untimely demise.