Ethics in workplace is a leadership issue that has raised concerns in the recent past. An organization depends on its employees in order to achieve its desired results. In order to do this, employees must be ethical in their actions and ensure that they work as per the expectations that are stipulated by the management.
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According to McCarthy & Eastman (2010, p. 25), ethics refers to a standard behavior that is acceptable within a given setting. These scholars say that although ethics may be considered as being universal, there are some cases where ethics may differ. This means that what one organization considers as ethical behavior may be unethical in another organization.
Besides the need to motivate employees, one of the most important issues that a manager always tries to inculcate on their employees is ethics. When employees embrace ethical behavior, they can follow instruction given without any deviation (Taborda 2011, p. 87).
Through ethics, employees will stay away from such unethical practices as pilferage that affects a firm negatively. Customer service also needs ethics in order to ensure that customers are served in a satisfactory and respectful manner.
There has been an argument of how best ethics can be inculcated among employees. According to Daft (2009, p. 41), ethics is not something that can be forced into an employee. It is fear that can be generated when the management decides to use punitive measures against those employees who go against the set laws.
However, Bird (2007, p. 220) says that fear is not a form of ethics, because when this fear is eliminated, then such an employee would be involved in unethical behavior with impunity. Eliminating fear at workplace can be an easy task for regular employees. They only need to understand the system and channels through which their unethical behavior can be detected.
Once this is clear, then they can easily avoid paths that may make them prone to being caught. As Sharma (2008, p. 55) says, ethics is something that should be in the mind of people. It should be a responsibility of the person. It is because of this that the researcher is interested in determining the influence of formal cultural systems on promotion of ethics.
Arguments about Formal Cultural System
According to Sirkin, Keenan and Jackson (2005, p. 67), organizational culture is gaining popularity at a very fast rate in the current corporate world. The competition in the corporate world has become very stiff, and many firms are trying to find a way of making their products unique in the market. To achieve this, many firms have realized that the best thing to do is to develop a culture that is unique to itself.
Organizational culture refers to the practices and the general conduct that all members of the organization are expected of when dealing with members of the organization and with customers (DeAnne, Gary, Hyde & Tipping 2004, p. 78). It also involves the manner in which employees will address any task assigned to them, and how they should relate to the environment.
The main reason why firms are always keen on developing organizational culture is to develop a system that would enable employees work without feeling that they are forced with instruction.
It creates an environment where employees understand their responsibilities and appreciates the importance of accomplishing the assigned tasks without close monitoring. It also eliminates constant supervision from the top management. Kratschmer (2011, p. 26) says that employees always deliver more when they are allowed to work without feeling intimidated.
Supervision creates this intimidation, and the output of an employee is always very poor when they work under such intimidation. However, Basslin (1990, p. 78) says that employees cannot be allowed to work without any close monitoring in order to ensure that they are within the right track.
For a long time, managements struggled with the idea of finding the best way to monitor activities of employees without making them realize that they were being monitored. This was not an easy task until some scholars came up with organizational culture.
This culture allows managers to make employees not only understand what they are expected to do but also memorize all the procedures involved in handling the tasks and how to make relevant report. Organizational culture enables the management to ensure that employees work as expected without any direct supervision. It also helps in creating responsibility among the employees.
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The culture will always make employees understand that the organization is a system. In this system, they are the individual drivers that must work together in order to make this system run.
The employees will understand their position within the system, and the possible consequence that the system may be subjected to when they fail to do their part. They will therefore, feel responsible, as they would need to help this system achieve its objectives by constantly delivering their input.
To the management, their task will be reduced to finding ways of improving service delivery of the system and ensuring that the employees are constantly motivated. This culture must be made formal. According to Bardes, Mayer and Piccolo (2008, p. 185), it is not advisable for an organization to develop a good organizational culture and fail to make it formal.
This is because when this culture is made formal all the employees would have the moral authority to follow it. They will also find it challenging to ignore this culture because it is legally binding.
When this culture is made formal, all members of the organization would feel that all actions done in spirit of the culture would yield good results that would be acceptable. It would be very interesting to understand the relationship between formal cultural system and ethics within the organization. To do this, the researcher will try to answer the question below.
Is the formal cultural system within a firm the most important favor in creating an ethical workplace?
To respond to this question, it would require an analysis into the available literature about this topic. Researchers have conducted various empirical studies in order to determine if formal cultural system within a firm is the most important favor in creating an ethical workplace.
Ideas and Assertion about Influence of Formal Cultural System on Ethics
In the above section, the researcher has created a detailed insight into what a formal cultural system is. It is also clear from the above section that term ethics is defined as behavioral standards that are acceptable within the system. Of interest now would be to determine how formal cultural system would influence ethics within a firm.
According to Baekdal, Hansen, Todbjerg and Mikkelsen (2006, p. 57), ethics and organizational culture has close relationship. This scholar says that when developing an organizational culture, the management would try to ensure that they set a culture that is conscious of the expected ethics.
This scholar says that when developing the culture, the management would first determine all the ethical issues that are relevant within the organization. After determining this, these ethical issues will be intertwined with the culture.
This argument is supported by Goolnik (2006, p. 65) who says that when developing an organizational culture, the most important thing that the management has to consider is the relevant ethical issues. When the employees adopt a culture within the organization, it should be that which is within the ethical considerations.
Bass (1985, p. 47) gives a new insight into the relationship between formal cultural system and ethics. This scholar says that it is not possible to separate ethics from formal cultural practice because cultural practice in itself is expected to be formal.
When an organization develops a formal cultural system that is not conscious to ethics, it would be nearly impossible to inculcate ethics within the organization, because these two forces should be modified in a way that they will pull together. In case there is a moment they are allowed to pull in different directions, the one which is considered easier to achieve by employees would be followed.
Avolio and Yammarino (2008, p.67) on the other hand, think that the argument given by this scholar is partly true, but lacks some practical insights. These scholars say that it is true that ethics and organizational culture are inter-twined. However, this scholar says that there is no moment that the management would develop a culture that is unethical because they stand to bear the consequence.
The scholars also reiterate that it is practically impossible for an organization to capture all ethical issues in its organizational culture.
However, a scholar thinks that the only thing that a firm can do is to develop a system that would show the employees the right path to follow when handling various activities with a leeway of making personal decisions that are considered ethical. This means that the management can only create a culture that offers guideline towards ethical behavior.
Ethics may not be easily achieved in the workplace unless the members understand that it is needed to ensure sustainability and development for everyone. Banutu (2004, p. 150) argues McGregor’s Theory Y.
He says that employees can be self-motivated to deliver the expected results as long as they are provided with an environment that supports this. To this extend, the best way of promoting ethics within an organization is to create a formal cultural system that will create a good environment for employees to work without direct supervision.
When this is realized, employees will develop a sense of responsibility in whatever activity they are engaged in. This would lead to a need to act ethically when undertaking various assignments. This means that formal cultural system would be creating an environment for employees within a firm to act ethically.
Given that the cultural system is formal, they will know that their actions are legally binding and would therefore, feel protected for every ethical decision they make which is in line with the cultural system. This means that employees will not need to make constant referrals to higher authorities when they are subjected to issues that are new to them but within their jurisdiction.
The guiding principle would be clear based on the formal cultural system upon which the organization runs. This system would therefore, promote ethical behavior from the perspective that this would bring benefits to the individual and to the organization.
Pros and Corns of Using Formal Cultural System to Promote Ethics
According to Devis (2008, p. 46), formal cultural system will always promote ethics, but this works from McGregor’s Theory X perspective. This scholar says that given opportunity, employees would want to spend a lot of time in leisure because naturally, a human being hates work.
This means that when there is no tight system put in place to monitor their activities and behavior, then they will tend to avoid their duties, involve in activities that would give them quick effortless gains such as corruption and other activities that are detrimental to the success of the organization they are working.
This scholar also agrees with the fact that when forced to work under direct supervision, employees would always feel a lot of pressure that may lower their final output. This means that management must find a way of making employees deliver good results and work ethically without feeling this pressure.
To achieve ethics in this context, Armstrong (2001, p. 45) says that formal cultural system would be beneficial. To this extent, the scholar says that the system should be developed to make employees realize that they have responsibility to be ethical in their actions. However, Anderson (2011, p. 89) warns that this system should not be punitive in nature.
The employees should not feel that the system is set to give punishment at the slightest misstep because it would make them work under pressure, and this affects their productivity. The system should make them understand that while in this organization, there is a manner in which every activity in done and any contravention to the laid principles would result into negative consequences to the organization.
Being part of the organization, any negative effect to the organization would automatically affect the individual negatively (Wilson 1992, p. 97). This system will be acting as an agent that would deter an unethical act.
The moment an individual is faced with the temptation to engage in unethical act, the system would be a constant reminder of both the short term and long-term consequences of such acts. This would be a way of promoting ethics in the workplace, but from the perspective of the possible consequences.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The above discussion has demonstrated that formal cultural system is the best way through which an organization can ensure that there is ethics at the workplace. One of the best ways of ensuring that employees work ethically within the workplace is to ensure that there is constant supervision from the management.
However, in the current competitive world, no organization can afford to hire such a large number of employees whose work will just be supervision. Organizations are growing learner in terms of the number of employees and therefore, every employee would have a specific task other within the firm with a few top management individuals responsible for making policies and supervisory work.
Researchers have also confirmed that when employees work under direct supervision, their output is reduced. This makes formal cultural system the efficient tool in promoting ethics within an organization. Whether it is taken from the perspective of Theory X or Theory Y, the fact is that this system can help promote ethics at workplace. It is therefore, recommended that leaders use formal cultural system to promote ethics.
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