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The success of the organization and the society at large depends on the integrity and the adherence to ethical conduct by everyone in the society. Ethics are defined as well established rules and laws that dictate what is judged by society as “right” or “wrong” while integrity is a person’s value system which guides their behavior (Czimbal & Brooks, 2011).
Acting without ethics and integrity not only damages an organization’s reputation but it also results in losses for both the consumers and the employees. Despite this, the world is today faced with what can be termed as an “ethics crisis”. Actions such as: deceit, misrepresent, and bribery misdemeanors that were once considered unacceptable are increasingly tolerable and some organizations even see them as necessary practices.
There have emerged a number of factors and influencers that are leading to increased cases of Ethical and Integrity dilemmas within employees in organizations all over the world. This paper will attempt to highlight these factors and influencers and suggest ways in which employees can overcome them for the good of the organization.
Factors and Influences of Ethical and Integrity
While there have always been incidents of ethical and integrity breakdowns in business operations, these cases have increased significantly in the last few decades. This has been attributed to a number of reasons. To begin with, organizations today face increasing demands to improve their productivity or else be pushed out of business (Kotler & Keller, 2008).
Since the workforce is responsible for ensuring that organizational productivity is optimal, the pressure to perform falls on the employees. Due to this aggressive competition, employees are pushed to engage in unethical behavior as they try to meet targets and ensure that their performance is high.
Traditionally, businesses had well defined code of ethics which articulated the highest values that the organization aimed to achieve. The code comprised of guidelines on the manner in which business activities should be conducted and therefore highlighted to the workers what could be done or not done.
Codes of conduct include examples of behaviors that the business deems are desirable and those it objects to. For an organization operating on a global platform, it is increasingly difficult to come up with codes of conduct especially in the foreign countries. Without well defined codes, the employees may not know which values are important to the organization (Kotler & Keller, 2008).
Lack of specific guidelines on the rewards and punishment system adopted by an organization to tackle ethical issues also escalates unethical behavior. This is because many employees engage in unethical behavior due to ignorance on the consequences that will follow from this behavior.
Another issue that arises in the global sphere is that it is not easy to agree upon standards for ethics which a business should follow. Dubinsky and Richter (2009) state that this is because legal principles differ in various countries which means that organizations may not have clear standards in the varying countries. The organization may therefore find it hard to come up with an ethics program for the employees. This leads to loses for the business since the establishment of ethics programs for the organization benefits the business.
Organizations are increasingly having weak organizational cultures instead of strong cohesive culture. Cohesive culture not only enhances the commitment by employees to organizational goals but it also results in higher ethical conduct. Sabath (2002) declares that the effectiveness of the ethics program adopted by an organization depends on the organizational culture.
In addition to this, the business environment is very dynamic in nature and many changes occur rapidly. The survival of the organization depends on how well it is able to adapt to these changes and improve its efficiency. Sabath (2002) states that a strong organizational culture facilitates the adoption and transitioning into new ethical standards.
Companies are increasingly operating in multiple countries which have differing regulations. Dubinsky and Richter (2009) state that in such scenarios, the legal system for ethics is not clear and it is therefore not easy for a business to agree on a set of ethical standards. Dubinsky and Richter (2009) demonstrate that while the US has a well developed approach to corporate ethics standard, the same approach may be unsuitable for use by an American business that operates on a global level.
Without well articulated baseline standards which the employees can rely on, the ethical standards of a business can be compromised. Czimbal and Brooks (2011) demonstrate that when ethics are not clearly defined, employees are inclined to act in an unethical manner.
Due to globalization, organizations now operate in countries that have different standards of ethics. In some countries, corruption and bribery is rife and is seen as the norm of business organization. Company managers are required to issue bribes to government officials before they can be given permits to operate or offered lucrative deals.
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In such an environment, the success of the organization may seem to be increased by engaging in unethical behavior. A person who comes from a society which does not approve of these vices will be at a dilemma since the organization may suffer in the new environment if employees do not conform to the vices.
The labor market is often full of individuals who are competing for the same job and organizations often have a wide selection of hires to choose from. The employees who are already working for the organizations are also pressured and threatened with dismissal if they fail to perform or if they make mistakes.
Some companies have even adopted zero tolerance policies on mistakes which has led to employees resorting to unethical acts. Braybrooke (2003) reveals that in a study on unethical practices by employees, the most frequent infringements were covering up of accidents and lying to superiors.
Employees were also observed to be in the habit of misleading customers so as to increase their sales. Heathfield (2011) states that due to competition, sales people misrepresent the quality or functionality of items to customers who are ignorant.
Promoting Integrity and Ethical Conduct
Unethical behavior among employees has an adverse effect on the particular organization and the society at large. The manners in which the employees to an organization behave affect the public perception of the business (Crane & Matten, 2007). If employees do not exercise integrity and ethical conduct in their deals, this will reflect negatively on the organization.
A negative perception of the business by the public will result in decreased growth and development of the organization since the public makes up the consumer base. It is therefore of great importance to ensure that ethical behavior and integrity is practiced by employees.
Crane & Matten (2007) declare that the effectiveness of the ethical standards adopted by a business is determined by the backing that these standards get from the workforce. It is therefore important for managers to show the employees the value of integrity and ethical behavior and the costs that arise from unethical behavior.
Establishing of ethics programs for the business can help solve the ethical issues that employees currently face. The employees will have guidelines to guide them into maintaining a moral course of action especially in times of difficulty when unethical behavior may seem attractive to the employee (Czimbal & Brooks, 2011).
Ethics programs will be beneficial to not only the organization but also the society within which the business operates (Dubinsky & Richter, 2009). Ethical programs also result in strong teamwork by the employees since they all ascribe to the same standards and values. This will increase organizational efficiency and therefore lead to higher productivity.
Being unethical leads to damages and loses and it is therefore important to avoid unethical behavior. This paper has highlighted some of the reasons for the ethical and integrity dilemma and breakdown currently exhibited by employees in the Global Economy.
The rampant competition among organizations for a market share and the resulting pressure on employees has been highlighted as one of the major causes of the ethical break down currently exhibited. This paper has given some measures that can be taken to alleviate this condition have been suggested. By operating in an ethical manner, employees can be of greater value to the organization and the society will also benefit from the same.
Braybrooke, D. (2003). Natural Law Modernized. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Crane, A. & Matten, D. (2007). Business ethics: managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization. USA: Oxford University Press.
Czimbal, B. & Brooks, M. (2011). Ethics & Integrity. Web.
Dubinsky, J.E. & Richter, A. (2009). The Global Ethics & Integrity Benchmarks. Web.
Heathfield, S.M. (2011). All You Have Is Your Integrity: Why Leave Your Integrity to Chance? Web.
Kotler, P. & Keller, K.L. (2008). Marketing Management, (13th Ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Sabath, A, M. (2002). Business etiquette: 101 ways to conduct business with charm & savvy, (2nd Ed.). New Jersey: Career Press.