WORKPLACE ETHICS AND ATTITUDINAL CHANGE Learning objectives At the end of the presentation, participants should be able to; – Understand what work ethics is all about and be able to classify decision as ethical or unethical. – Appreciates the categories of ethical questions – Analyses ethical reasoning based on the tools of ethics – Grasp some of the actions which may be breaching the boundary of ethical practices at workplaces. – Learn some of the ways ethics in the workplace can be managed – Understands attitudes and attitudinal change and the three different parts which together create an evaluation of the attitude object. Recognizes some of the top strategies for changing attitudes. – Be able to translate what is learnt into action. Introduction Workplace Ethics is a subject that we have all heard of. In fact, the subject of Ethics in general is something that most people are familiar with. And, what is commonly understood about ethics is there are ethics and then there are workplace ethics. What most people don’t realize, however, is that there is no such thing as workplace ethics; ethics are the same, (or, should be) whether in the workplace or in personal life.
Ethics ??? What it’s about Ethics are about making choices that may not always feel good or seem like they benefit you but are the “right” choices to make. They are the choices that are examples of “model citizens” and examples of the golden rules. We’ve all heard the golden rules: Don’t hurt, don’t steal, don’t lie, or one of the most famous: “Do unto others as you would have done to you. ” These are not just catchy phrases; these are words of wisdom that any productive member of society should strive to live by.
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Ethics are moral principles or beliefs about what is right or wrong. These belief guide individuals in their dealings with other individuals and groups (stakeholders) and provide a basis for deciding whether behavior is right and proper. Ethics help people determine moral responses to situations in which the best course of action is unclear. Ethics help managers in their decisions about what to do in various situations. Ethics also help managers decide how best to respond to the interests of various organizational stakeholders. Ethical vs. Unethical decisions
Philosophers have debated for centuries about specific criteria that should be used to determine whether decisions are ethical or unethical. In theory, there are three models and complementary ways of determining whether decisions are ethical or unethical. These models are; Utilitarian, Moral rights and Justice Models. Utilitarian Model: an ethical decision is a decision that produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Therefore, managers should compare and contrast alternative course of action based on the benefits and costs of those alternatives for different organizational stakeholders group.
Moral Rights Model: an ethical decision that best maintains and protects the fundamental rights and privileges of the people affected by it. For example, ethical decisions protect people’s rights to freedom, life and safety, privacy, free speech, and freedom of conscience. Thus, managers should compare and contrast alternative course of action based on the effect of those alternatives on stakeholder’s right. Justice Model: an ethical decision is a decision that distributes benefits and harms among stakeholders in a fair, equitable, or impartial way.
In this case, managers should compare and contrast alternatives course of action based on the degree to which the action will promote a fair distribution of outcomes. Ethical issues, however, are seldom clear-cut, and the interests of different stakeholders often conflict, so frequently it is extremely difficult for a decision maker to use these models to ascertain the most ethical course of action. For this reason many experts on ethics propose this practical guide to determine whether a decision or behavior is ethical or unethical.
Ethical decision is a decision that reasonable or typical stakeholders would find acceptable because it aids stakeholders, the organization, or society. By contrast, an unethical decision is a decision that a manager would prefer to disguise or hide from other people because it enables a company or a particular individual to gain at the expense of society or other stakeholders. A decision is probably acceptable on ethical grounds if a manager can answer “yes” to each of these questions: i. Does my decision fall within the accepted values or standards that typically apply in the organizational environment? i. Am I willing to see the decision communicated to all stakeholders affected by it ??? for example, by having it reported in newspapers or on television? iii. Would the people with whom I have significant personal relationship, such as family members, friends, or even managers in other organizations, approve of the decision? Four levels of ethical questions We cannot avoid ethical issues in our organizations any more than we can avoid them other areas of our lives. In life, most ethical questions fall into one or more of four categories: societal, stakeholder, internal policy, or personal.
Societal; at the societal level, we ask question about the basic institutions in a society. For instance, the problem of apartheid in South Africa was a societal level question: is it ethnically correct to have a social system in which a group of people ??? the majority ??? is systematically denied the basic right. Stakeholder; here we ask question about how an organization should deal with the external groups affected by its decisions, as well as how the stakeholders should deal with the organization. There are many stakeholders’ issues.
Insider trading and company’s obligations to inform its customer about the potential dangers of its products are some of these issues. Internal Policy; here we ask questions about the nature of an organization’s relations with its employees. What kind of employment contract is fair? What are the mutual obligations of managers and workers? What right do employees have? These questions pervade the workday of a manager. Layoffs, work rules, motivation, and leadership are all ethical concerns here. Personal; here we ask question about how people should treat one another within an organization.
Should we be honest with one another, whatever the consequences? What obligation do we have ??? both as human beings and as workers who fill specific work roles ??? to our bosses, our employees and our peers? These questions deal with day ??? to ??? day issues of life in any organization. Behind them lie two broader issues: do we have the right to look at other people primarily as means to our ends? Can we avoid doing so? The Tools of Ethics Consciously or unconsciously, we engage in some kind of ethical reasoning every day of our lives.
To improve our ethical reasoning, we must analyze it explicitly and practice it daily. The key terms of the ethical language are values, rights, duties, rules, and relationships. Values: are relatively permanent desires that seem to be good in themselves, like peace or goodwill. When you value something, you want it or you want it to happen. Values are the answers to the “why” questions. Why, for example, are you in this training? You might reply you want to learn about management? Why is that important? To be a better manager. Why do you want that?
To be promoted and make more money sooner. Such questions go on and on, until you reach the point where you no longer want something for the sake of something else. At this point, you have arrived at a value. Organizations as well as individuals have values. Right and Duties: a right is a claim that entitles a person the “freedom” in which to take action. Rights are rarely absolute; most people would agree that the scope of individual rights is limited by the rights of others. Ordinarily, you have a right to speak your mind freely ??? until you make slanderous statements about another person.
Moreover, right are correlated with duties. Whenever someone has a right, someone else has a duty to respect it. A duty is an obligation to take specific steps ??? to pay taxes, for example, and to obey the law in other respects. Moral rules: there are rules for behavior that often become internalized as moral values. It guides us through situations where competing interests collide. You might think of moral rules as “tie breakers” ??? guidelines that can resolve disagreements. Human Relationships: every human being is connected to others in a web of relationships.
These relationships exist because we need one another for mutual support and to accomplish our goals. From a small child’s relationship with parents to a manager’s relationship with an employee, relationships are pervasive aspect of moral life. We constantly decide how to maintain and nurture them. These decisions reflect our values and our concern for ethics. Workplace ethics Have you ever given a second thought before taking photocopy, from office copier, of your son’s school project? Have you ever thought before asking someone to fill the blank bills that you have to submit to claim your tour expenses?
Have you ever felt guilty before presenting the business plan, made completely by your subordinate, to your managers; and pass the same as your masterpiece, the outcome of your efforts?… If your answer is “yes” then you are among the rare breed of employees, standing on the verge of extinction who still know the wafer thin margin between the ethics and privileges at workplace. A recent survey by reputed staffing company Teamlease has released startling facts about (un)ethical practices by employees in India’s top 500 Companies.
From the report, here are some of the actions which may be breaching the boundary of ethical practices at workplaces. In this era of Globalization, Ethics must be pivotal to any organizations’ policies; be it HR policies, be it dealing with vendors, be it interacting with customers and getting business… the list goes on. Information about competitors’ business may be too tempting for you to think about ethics at that moment but ethical behaviors can’t be compartmentalized as per your convenience. Consistent unethical practices in any part of your work life make you insensitive towards ethics in other areas of your life, ven in your family life. Ethics are not actions but a way of thinking and living for you. Unethical in one area definitely makes you more prone to be unethical in other areas. Employees’ engaging in personal work in office hours is one of the biggest challenges for companies’ world over. Chatting with your old college buddies, chatting with your web-friends, visiting job sites, making family album in your desktop, plunging in stock markets in office hours all fall under this category. Be conscious before engaging in these activities.
You have been hired and paid by your employer not to give you nice cabin with AC so that you can fulfill your personal obligations comfortably. Certainly not! You must have come through many “parasitic managers” in your work life. See and make sure that you are not one amongst them. As per Wiktionary, a parasite is “A useless person who always relies on other people’s work and gives nothing back. ” Parasitic Managers always take unfair credit for subordinate’s ideas. They always pass on subordinate’s work as theirs. Beware about this practice and discourage by talking to your manager one-to-one.
This is highly unethical to devoid of due credit and reward for one’s work. Besides encouraging utterly unacceptable practice, other suicidal consequences from the organization’s view is highly de-motivated and frustrated employees. A single parasitic manager at senior level can make unimaginable damage to the internal health of the company and encourage dirty politics at all levels. Forging expense reports, working reports etc. are other big challenge for organizations. Just think about the difference that extra unethical money makes to your life; it’ll be nothing compared to the price that you pay for losing your conscience.
Always claim as per your eligibility. For any deviations do take your manager in confidence. No manager will deny your reimbursement for the work done to achieve organizational objectives. Abuses of perks are also most prevalent unethical practice among managers. Claiming telephone expenses without having telephone, forging fuel bills, forging food bills, claiming self improvement allowance without engaging in any such activity, claiming salaries for class IV staff provided by company without having a single staff… the list is very long.
The scope of unethical practices is being defined from organization’s perspective. What is ethical for one may be the opposite for other. How to Manage Ethics in the Workplace The effective management of ethics is a sound practice. Employees’ morale is raised; bottom-line performance is improved, your corporate image is enhanced; and customers choose to form business relationships with companies that adhere to high standards of ethical conduct. One of your key management tasks is to persuade employees to accept your organization’s ethical values.
Here are some points to consider… 1. Understand the benefits of ethical conduct: All key parties benefit from ethical conduct within the organization. Employees who have confidence in their management contribute to their organization’s prosperity. Conversely, in an unethical climate, employee productivity declines, creativity is channeled into seeking ways to profit personally from the business, loyalty diminishes, and absenteeism and staff turnover increase. Customers prefer to be associated with and remain loyal to companies that adhere to codes of ethical behavior.
Shareholders derive up to fifteen times greater return from companies with a dedicated commitment to ethical conduct. 2. Focus on ethical conduct: When referring to codes of behavior, the term ‘ethical conduct’ is more comprehensive and more meaningful than ‘ethics’. The best ethical values and intentions are relatively meaningless unless they generate fair, just, and observable behaviors in the workplace. Ethical conduct focuses on demonstrated behavior-doing, not just saying. 3. Develop a code of ethical conduct: The best way to handle ethical dilemmas is to avoid their occurrence in the first place.
The process involved in developing a code of ethical conduct helps to sensitize employees to ethical considerations and minimizes the likelihood that unethical behavior will occur. 4. Promote process: When it comes to managing ethics and, in particular, developing a code of ethical conduct, the journey is just as important as the destination. Codes, policies, procedures, and budgets are important. So, too, is the process of reflection and dialogue that produces those deliverables. Where possible use group decision making to actively involve participation in, and ownership of, the final outcome. 5.
Link ethics to other management practices: The development of a code of ethical conduct should not occur in isolation. The creation of a values statement, for example, should occur as part of a strategic planning process. A link to ethical conduct fits ideally with this process. Similarly, any discussion about personnel policies could also reflect ethical values as they apply to the organization’s culture. 6. Demonstrate ethical practices: The best way for you and your organization to gain a reputation for operating ethically is to demonstrate that behavior ??? the most important way to remain ethical is to be ethical.
And the best advertisement your ethics management program can have is everyone’s commitment to it. Be prepared for an increase in the number of ethical issues to be dealt with. As staff becomes increasingly aware of the importance of ethics management, it is to be expected that more issues will be identified. As Helen Vines says in ‘The Core of Good Business’ (HR Monthly, June 1999): ‘The most damaging thing is for management to come out with a code of ethics, or a value statement, and model a different type of behavior. ‘ 7.
Allocate roles and responsibilities: The approach will vary according to the organization, but an appropriate structure could include the following: i. An ethics management committee, representing the entire organization, with responsibilities to include implementing and administering an ethics management program. The creation and monitoring of a code of ethical conduct would be part of that overall program. ii. An ethics officer who ideally should be a senior executive but not from HR or the Legal Department. He or she must be trained in matters of ethics in the workplace and have ultimate responsibility for managing the program. ii. Demonstrated involvement and support of top management. Staff and Board must see that senior management takes ethical conduct seriously. Attitudinal Change Humans are naturally opinionated. We form likes and dislikes almost from the moment we first gain consciousness. Our stances on issues and our attitudes about things are directly linked to our innermost thoughts and feelings. In modern society we are constantly bombarded by advertisements and entertainment which works hard to influence or change these thoughts and feelings.
This is the art of attitude change, and it is important to understand what attitudes are and how they can be affected. Our teachers, friends, families, etc. convey their beliefs to us on a daily basis. On television, magazines, billboards, and even people’s cars and bodies ??? advertisements are everywhere. But to what degree do these things change the attitudes and behavior of people? To answer these questions it is important to understand what an attitude is. Attitude – An evaluation of a person, object, or idea. The focus of one’s attitude, or what they are evaluating, is called the attitude object.
Attitudes can be broken down into three different parts which together create an evaluation of the attitude object. Affective Component – This consists of the emotional reactions people have to attitude objects. For instance, if you have a favorite singer and you hear their voice come on the radio you might have feelings of happiness or excitement. If there is a car you think is ugly looking you might feel annoyed when you spot one on the road. Behavioral Component – This consists of actions or observable behavior that is the result of an attitude object.
If you hear a song you like on the radio then you might go home and research the singer so you can buy their album. You might then spend all your free time listening to this album. The attitude object has changed your behavior and actions. Cognitive Component – These are the thoughts and beliefs people have about an attitude object. For instance, you might like a singer because he or she has a melodic voice and catchy lyrics. You might also believe that the singer is a lot like you are which makes the music easier to relate to.
When these three components are combined they work to create an overall attitude about an attitude object. Attitudes are also formed because of social experiences that involve the affective, behavioral, and cognitive components. Top Strategies for Changing Attitudes! As work life becomes more complex and environmental changes force people and organizations to adapt more quickly ??? creating turbulence among our systems ??? more and more people seek to institute or embrace change. The following strategies are a place to begin that personal and organizational change. 1.
Release people from prior commitment: Probably most overlooked is this strategy. Most often we forget that one of the reasons people don’t change their attitude is that they have made a conscious or subconscious prior commitment. Uncovering those hidden agendas usually results in an opportunity to change one’s attitude about previous commitments. Even stability can be a prior commitment and until I understand that this new change, method or system is going to produce stability ??? I am not willing to let go of what is stable. 2. Provide new information: Often, people don’t see or feel the need to change.
Providing information to support change or the need to change can often open previously closed doors. Communicating change initiatives prior to implementation is often scary but almost always better than not doing it until the implementation begins. 3. Use fear positively: Deming says drive out fear. Yet, fear can be positive if we take the time to frame it correctly. Fear of some sort, often creates the urgency needed for change to take place and for change gaps to be bridged; BUT THE KEY TO USING FEAR is to show how the present path is NOT the best one.
You don’t just threaten people by stating if they don’t do it they will suffer the consequences. You use a combination of tactics to show with information how the present direction will lead to lower levels of benefits and more sacrifice than changing directions ??? personally or organizationally. 4. Resolve cognitive dissonance: Most often, each of us has a dialectic taking place inside ourselves about our attitudes and about the results of our behaviors. To resolve this dissonance or conflict can often lead to positive changes in attitudes for us personally as well as in organizations.
People are certain that their behavior always works, yet must often protect that faulty behavior with an attitude. Helping them to understand the conflict between their attitude and the behavior can lead to positive change. 5. Co-opt: Giving people ??? whose attitude is deviant from the norm ??? leadership opportunity can often lead to positive change for the person and the organization. Some say resistance is energy and this resistant energy occurs often in the form of challenging attitudes and opposition ??? disagreeableness.
Yet, often this energy can be harnessed to propel the organization forward while leading to attitudinal change in the opposition. 6. Have compassion: This may seem like a strange change initiative and a few years ago I would have thought you were “different” even mentioning it, yet compassion appears to hold the key to changing attitudes. Compassion has a way of building both rapport and offering peace to oneself and those in opposition. Often the worst thing we can do is to fight fire with fire ??? merely fueling the opposing forces and heightening our own negative emotions. . Seek first to understand: An age old maxim made popular by Stephen Covey’s 7 habits, empathy like compassion forces us to take the view of the opposing force and to attempt to understand the reasons for the resistance. Much has been written about this “soft” skill but by far, the caring sense that someone expresses authentically towards another person removes barriers to changes in attitudes. Empathy creates openings for new information and influence to reach through previously locked doors. 8.
Have acceptance: I hesitated a moment when offering this particular point, yet feel that without acceptance ??? recognizing that we are all different and that resistance is not always bad ??? we would lose valuable energy and innovation. Change occurs consciously and unconsciously and sometimes resistance is just change occurring unconsciously ??? forcing us to examine things that are outside of our own path. By accepting that some people will oppose our path, we open ourselves and our organizations to the innovative spark of difference. 9.
Dialog: Providing the space for the disclosure of assumptions, mental models and tightly held beliefs in “safe” harbors can lead to effective attitude change. If the above strategies are combined into an amalgam of actions, then change in attitude is likely to precipitate. None of this is easy, especially in those organizations or those people that are fully ingrained in the attitudes of resistance for resistance sake. Yet, taking the time to structure an ongoing dialog can be the initiative for many of the other strategies to provide motivational force to change one’s attitude.
Coaching often stages this personal dialog and can lead to further dialog in organizations as a result. Coaching often stabilizes the long term effects of short term intervention strategies and enables lasting and continuous change. Conclusion In summary, we have taken a deep look at what workplace ethics and attitudes are and the ways attitudes can be changed. The importance of workplace ethics and attitudinal change on the organization and the society cannot be overestimated.
We are living in a very important time in human history, where people are witnessing more and more changes in their dealings with people both at organizational and personal level. It will be very interesting to see how so many different viewpoints are able to successfully mingle and which values or norms win over the others. Results of a recent national study provide solid data that leaders who want to establish a practice of positive workplace ethics within their organizations should develop written ethics standards, provide ethics training, and ensure resources are available for employees in need of ethics advice.