Legal ethics is an applied form of ethical standards that attempt to assess the nature of behavioral patterns among legal professionals. Hence, recognition of the fact that individuals differ in terms of behavior, cultural value, race and ethnicity is important (Pinnington & Lafferty, 2002). For example, any government will apply legislation in highlighting the expected codes of conduct that should be practiced by businesses.
Therefore, behavioral patterns of individuals and professional organizations do affect immediate society within which such businesses operate. Hence, society requires these corporations to balance between profits earned and societal needs. This paper offers an in-depth analysis of legal and ethical issues that address current, past and future working environment for students.
Current ethical issues
In the contemporary world, there are several ethical issues that have broad applications to virtually all businesses. As a result, this makes them problematic in the sense that they cannot be confined to a certain firm. Students need to be exposed to the ethical issues early enough so that they are prepared in advance for their future career development.
Giving the top executives bribes in return for a tender is an ethical concern in the current world and it is a critical offense that is severely punishable. This form of crime has been accelerated by competition among businesses. The minority groups are being discriminated especially when some companies hire more men than women is a major ethical concern that is widening the gender inequality gap.
This trend has led to the rise of lobby groups which are fighting for the restoration of social justice through platforms like affirmative action which agitates for adequate representation of women at places of work as well as appointments in both civil service and private organizations.
Some industries have consistently failed to meet the expected standards on consumer goods since they are concentrating on minimizing production costs and boosting sales.
In addition, other firms deliberately ignore the side effects associated with consumption of certain commodities during packaging. Indeed, this is a serious ethical concern since it has a bearing on consumers’ health. Moreover, some firms do not adhere to legislations and polices formulated relating to wages and salaries of workers in the sense that they deny their employees favorable working conditions.
There are those which do not have proper ways of disposing their waste products since they channel wastes to rivers that members of the public use for domestic purposes. This contributes to both water and air pollution. Some firms engage in business malpractices such as selling products overseas at low prices than the competing firms in order to gain higher market share.
This accounts for an ethical issue which negatively affects sales volume of other firms. There are those who participate in misleading advertisements to boost their sales. The latter is a major ethical issue that needs to be looked at.
Furthermore, accounting departments of some companies do not present the true and fair values during reporting of financial reports in order to win creditors and potential investors. There are those who collaborate with external and internal auditors in giving their opinions relating to the performance of others. This is an ethical concern which in extreme cases leads to collapse of some firms.
At international level, several issues raise more questions than answers and have remained unresolved. For example, the rise of multinational companies has both merits and demerits and sometimes viewed as major contributing factor in the collapse of most local firms. In the long run, they do not make economic sense because they channel them back to their countries.
Other major ethical concerns include variations in standards by countries throughout the world such as use of child labor in some countries is acceptable while in others it is a serious offense punishable in a court of law.
Some countries have imposed strict trade barriers that discourage importation and encourage exportation (Baier & Wright, 2001). This exploitation leads to interest rate parity and variation in exchange rates of currencies between such countries.
Sources of ethical behavior
Professional individuals and organizations draw ethical behavior from a range of sources which explains why they exhibit varying ethical behaviors. A critical analysis of where people derive their ethics and the various ethical resources can assist us in solving some of these variations.
The nature of upbringing determines what a child will perceive to be right or wrong. A child who has been brought up by parents with law background, for example, grows appreciating settling differences in a just way. Therefore, parents should be careful on the kind of teachings given to their children since it will shape their adulthood.
Generally religions instill moral behaviors such as humility, speaking the truth, respecting others, being courteous and so on. Besides, it discourages vices such as dishonesty, corruption, immorality and even tries to win back the victims of such vices.
Therefore, Individuals who consistently adhere to their religious teachings are most likely to be people of high integrity in their respective professions (Wallach & Colin, 2008). Religion is therefore a good source of ethical behavior
Code of ethics
Code of ethics is a set of rules that acts as a guideline towards streamlining ethical behavior. Quite often, code of ethics is issued by professional entities aiming at shaping the conduct of those it addresses. Governments, for example, may come up with constitutional documents that contain rules and regulations governing citizens.
Besides, corporate governance issues code of ethics to eliminate corruption and embezzlement of funds, to serve as a warning to violators of public office ethics and to balance the interests of shareholders and those of management. At times, codes of conduct differ from other sources of ethical behavior although it is the most direct source of ethical behavior especially to training professionals.
Interaction with others
Through interacting with the others in our daily lives, we find ourselves judging others on the basis of their actions. Based on what we perceive to be right or wrong, we classify people around us based on their characteristics.
Those who lack strong personalities will believe the judgments made by others and may believe that what friends perceive to be right is actually the right but in some instances it could be the opposite, however. People especially the young ones tend to be influenced much by their peers to such an extent that they derive and adopt their behaviors.
Several scholars have come up with theories that attempt to develop principles and theories through which people can derive ethical behavior. For example, code of ethics is a collection of principles by several thinkers.
Theorists such as Aristotle, Plato and other upcoming theorists all over the world have covered ethical issues at length. Philosophical books covering ethical behavior by these theorists have shaped the ethical behaviors of many individuals across the world (Lafollette, 2000).
The last but not the least source of ethical behavior is when one faces two choices that demand making a concise choice. Normally the two alternatives carry the same weight and therefore choosing one is a challenge. The two alternatives are mutually exclusive and the most tasks are about deciding which of the two is more important.
For example, a manager may be required to decide whether to increase the price of a product or downsize the employees to lower the cost of production. In this dilemma sales are bound to increase but each has its own demerits. Ethical predicaments act as a good basis for discovering ethical questions and shaping ethical behavior.
Legal viewpoints in relation to ethical issues
The law supports ethical behavior through a set of rules contained in a document called a constitution. It is through the laws outlined in the constitution that the citizens are governed. A constitution is a comprehensive document that spells out the limits to which a government regulates the activities of individuals and citizens. Generally, a constitution comprises of three main branches, the judiciary, legislature and the executive.
These branches act as checks and balances to actions of citizens. It clearly spells out the roles and responsibilities of each branch. All citizens in the country are subjected to the rule of law, to the same judicial system and the same charges.
Violation of any of the laws leads to punishment as a way of encouraging ethical behavior and a teaching to others who may be engaging in the same vice (Brian, 2000). Constitution is the supreme document subject to amendments only through approval by the parliament (Mallor & Barnes et al., 2010).
The U.S constitution was ratified in1778 after the end of revolutionary way in 1783 and declaration of independence which was signed in 1776. Since then this constitution has been operational though several amendments have been made to enhance ethical behavior amongst citizens of U.S.
Introduce training programs for ethical issues
Organizations should introduce training programmes whereby trainees should be exposed to critical ethical issues, be actively involved in solving ethical dilemma questions to enhance their thinking capacity in making decisions on ethical issues.
Whichever manner the training is done and irrespective of who undertakes it, the aim should be to support ethical behavior in the organization. Interactions amongst workers can also be a form of training, in fact the best training on ethical conduct (Lafollette, 2000).
Voice and whistle blowing mechanism
An organization that is being run ethically should provide an environment whereby employees can raise their opinions and use whistle blowing mechanism in exposing those involved in unethical practices. There should be protection for whistle blowers so that they do not risk losing their jobs when they point out and expose executive members who are above them in the management hierarchy.
Formulate diversity management plans
To achieve coexistence amongst diverse workforce, an organization should formulate a plan that clearly outlines the mission and vision statements, develop a culture that supports ethical behavior, and formulate clear procedures relating to recruitment and selection of employees who best fit the various positions (Mallor & Barnes et al., 2010).
The plan should support partnerships for development, support society welfare by being socially responsible and aim at delivering superior value to their esteemed customers.
Reduce the gap between the poor and the rich
Empirical research studies have shown that malpractices such as corruption and bribing of top executives to obtain tenders and bids are as a result of the wide gap between the poor and the rich. Those who are poor will be willing to use any means whether ethical or unethical to improve their status in the society. This wide gap can be reduced by achieving equal distribution of income.
Controlling the level of population is another corrective measure in shaping ethical behavior. Communities should be sensitized on the need of planning their families since manageable families go hand in hand with ethical behavior bearing in mind that less children have wider access to basic necessities such as food, quality education and viable health care.
Governments have responsibility of rehabilitating prisoners and teaching them to value and adopt ethical behavioral patterns. This can be achieved by educating them on the need to change their perceptions and attitudes towards life.
These criminals can further be enlightened on the benefits they will obtain if they opt to live a positive life. Moreover, society should also be encouraged to accept them back once they complete their jail terms and show signs of positive change.
Education on safety standards
Companies should undertake educational responsibility to final consumers of their products in terms of what is healthy for their consumption. In addition, the side effects associated with consumption of particular products should be made clear. Ideally the side effects should be boldly written.
In summing up, it is clear from this paper that the application of ethical behavior is inevitable in businesses, governments and the society as a whole. Therefore, a conducive environment is required to support ethical behavior in the process of production. For instance, ethical behavior enhances coexistence and understanding at workplace.
Employees acknowledge the fact that diversity should not be a setback to achieving organizational goals. They learn to accommodate diverse cultures of their colleagues bearing in mind that is a major component of ethical behavior. Hence, increased demand for ethical professionals who are accountable, transparent and of high integrity has accelerated the very need for ethical behavior in upcoming generations.
Furthermore, countries that uphold and respect the rule of law are well placed compared to those which do not have respect for law. They are far much better in terms of economic growth and development.
Baier, C. J. & Wright, B. R. (2001). A meta-analysis of the effect of religion on crime. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38, 3–21.
Brian, O. (2000). War and International Justice: A legal perspective. Wilfrid Laurier: University Press.
Lafollette, H. (2000). The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory. Blackwell Philosophy Guides. Blackwell: Wiley Publishers.
Mallor, J. & Barnes et al. (2010). Business law: The ethical, global and e-commerce Environment. (14th ed.) New York: McGraw Hill/Irwin.
Pinnington, A. H. & Lafferty, G. (2002). Human Resources Diversity Management. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Wallach, W. & Colin, A. (2008). Moral psychology is the study of morality in its Psychological dimensions. New York: Oxford University Press.