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Professional Ethics. Employment of Spouses Essay

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Updated: Aug 2nd, 2021

Abstract

There are many challenges that come up when spouses work together. These challenges are often seen as detrimental to both the individuals’ career projection and the involved company’s profitability. There have been debates on whether it is ethical for spouses to work together. It is important to note that many of these debates assume that spouses were already married before they started working together. However, there are cases where co-workers fall in love with each other and marry. The issue of employment of spouses is multi-dimensional and complex. However, there is evidence that whereas it might be challenging for one to work with his or her spouse, it is not unethical.

Introduction

Servant leadership and job social support are identified as critical requirements for organizations that employ spouses (Yang, Zhang, Kwan, & Chen, 2018). There are several debates on whether working with one’s spouse is ethical and even ideal in terms of career progression. The involvement of personal (family) concerns in work duties has negatively affected the perception of spousal employment. This essay seeks to answer the long debated question of whether working with one’s spouse should be termed unethical.

Objective

The objective of the essay is to analyze whether working with one’s spouse is ethical and professionally acceptable.

Investigative Question

This inquiry focused on how spouses interact both in the workplace and at home. Specifically, the investigation sought to find out whether employment of spouses is professionally acceptable. Some of the things that were considered during the investigation include the positions the spouses held, how long they had worked together, how they met, and their career progression since they got married/started working together.

Background

According to Machek, Kolouchová and Hnilica (2016) the number of working married women increased significantly in the US in 1960. This was attributed to the fact that more women have acquired necessary skills for work. Additionally, it was also associated with the reason why many married men helped their wives get jobs. Due to this, several spouses ended up working together in the same industries. However, due to marital problems affecting work, many companies began shunning spousal employment (Yang et al., 2018). Some of the main concerns recorded included spousal duties where one spouse was accused of neglecting their marital role due to their work (Yang et al., 2018). This was especially common in men, who would prefer their wives to stay at home and ensure household chores were done. Arguably, male chauvinism made spousal employment difficult as women became more vocal and prominent in the workplace. Today, there are few companies that allow spousal employment. In fact, as Machek et al. (2016) reveal, many people are requested to state whether they know anyone working in the same organization when applying for a job.

Body: Findings/Lessons

Investigation into the topic at hand reveals that indeed, there are few organizations that still allow spousal employment. One of the reasons why several companies reject the practice is that it has been deemed unethical and unprofessional. This premise is based on the argument that spouses will often involve their marital issues into their workplaces if they work together (Yang et al., 2018). The idea that spouses are not able to separate work from home affairs has been used over the decades to explain the unprofessional nature of employment of spouses. However, it has not been used to explain whether this is ethical. Notably, critics have argued that as an ethical professional issue, companies that do not hire individuals based purely on the fact that their spouse works in the same organization are unethical. Machek et al. (2016) explain that there are many other factors that are used to determine whether a person is qualified for a position. However, spousal employment should not be one of these reasons.

The position each spouse holds in the company they are working for is also important. Indeed, there are several ethical concerns that might arise if a spouse directly supervises or attempts to influence the supervision of his or her partner (Yang et al., 2018). This influence can either positively or negatively affect the spouse. Regardless, it will influence the relationship both spouses have with their colleagues and with each other as well. Yang et al. (2018) explain that employment of spouses has rarely been beneficial to an organization. However, the few cases where it has not caused conflict have involved spouses working in different and slightly unrelated departments.

Yang et al. (2018) argue that the most challenging bit of employment of spouses is decision-making. When both spouses are put in a position to make decisions, either cultural or spousal bias will manifest itselft, if not both. Cultural biases include who has the upper hand in decision-making, and is usually based on gender. On the other hand, spousal bias involves the agreement between the two individuals on how to handle decision-making issues. This can negatively affect the performance of both spouses as it might not encourage inclusivity or collaboration in decision-making. Additionally, it enhances the perception that one spouse is more effective than the other in the workplace as the “non-performing” one will be deemed lazy.

Further, an ethical professional concern in employment of spouses can be noticed in promotions. Machek et al. (2016) explain that there are two main ways in which individuals get promoted. The first is through a good work record where they met their objectives and succeeded in making profit. The second is the number of years/experience an individual has. Employment of spouses becomes an ethical concern when both spouses have a near-similar record and level of experience yet one is promoted and the other is not. Such a conflict feeds into marital concerns that the couple might be going through at the same time. For instance, if a couple is struggling to understand their individual roles in sustaining their homes, then they will not easily understand why one person is deemed fit for a promotion when the other is not. Additionally, the fact that promotions at work tend to favor men compared to women makes the situation even more difficult.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are many reasons why companies do not accept the idea of employment of spouses. Even though it worked in the beginning as a way of ensuring women had employment, the challenges of spousal employment led to many companies rejecting the idea. One of the factors that make employment of spouses difficult is the failure to separate work from home issues. This creates an awkward and toxic work environment for both the spouses and their colleagues. Despite the challenges, one can argue that it is not unethical to hire spouses to work in the same company if they both qualify for their respective positions. However, it is unethical to reject an individual for a position he or she qualifies for on the basis that his or her spouse works in the organization as well.

References

Machek, O., Kolouchová, D., & Hnilica, J. (2016). The impact of spousal relationship on profitability: A matched-pair investigation of copreneurial firms. Journal of Advanced Management Science, 4(3), 245-249.

Yang, Z., Zhang, H., Kwan, H. K., & Chen, S. (2018). Crossover effects of servant leadership and job social support on employee spouses: The mediating role of employee organization-based self-esteem. Journal of Business Ethics, 147(3), 595-604.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Professional Ethics. Employment of Spouses." August 2, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/professional-ethics-employment-of-spouses/.

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