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Seminar Paper, 2004
13 Pages, Grade: 85%
1.0 Introduction & Context
2.0 Literature Review - Theory
2.1 Organisational Ethics and its Components
2.2 Transactional vs. Transformational Directives
2.3 Ethical Dilemma Decision Model
3.0 Case Study Review
3.1 Clinical Ethics
3.1.1 Market Outcomes
3.1.2 The Commercial Moral of the Story
3.2 Business Ethics
3.2.2 What I learnt
This paper assesses personal experience in organisational ethics, offering an analytical approach to a reflective personal view, placing this against a review of the most recent reported findings in the literature on the topic of ethics, moral behaviour and its consequences in an organisational setting.
The origin of the word “ethics” is derived from the Greek word “êthos”, which, in a more precise translation, might be better rendered as “image”. The science of ethics, as it became established in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, was concerned with the search for absolute standards of conduct guiding decisions and actions, and was closely tied to the concept of duties derived from core values. Since ethics itself, as moral philosophy, set out to establish generally accepted standards of right and wrong, the word ‘moral’ became interchangeable with ‘ethics’, although the former originally referred to the act and the latter to the abstract principle from which the act was derived. In the meantime, “being ethical or moral” has come to imply conforming with specific (generally acceptable) standards, whereby the initial agenda of establishing universally applicable moral principles has been replaced by the realisation that groups of people can also adhere to or deviate from a set of their own ethical standards. From this, it follows that such standards can be established by an individual, a corporation or a nation to help or guide decisions and actions. Schoen (1979i) even sees the metaphors employed as vital to the framing of issues, since these guide both what is deemed to be a problem and the paradigms used in addressing them. This notion of defining problems and paradigms is clearly applicable to managers and leaders paid to make organisational decisions congruent with the organisational culture, whereby the choices they have to make may vary in terms of the perceived ethical solution selected from a range of alternative solutions. A general central part of management and organisations is its study of organisational culture, although this has, as yet, only received minimal attention – and even less in its relation to issues in moral psychology (Feldman, 2002ii). Yet since an individual’s identity comprises stable mental and physical characteristics, it would seem that understanding individual personality is a crucial step in managing oneself and others effectively (Weiss, 2001iii).
Organisational ethics often conjures up companies such as Enron, ImClone, Tyco and WorldCom, with their spectacular headlines on ethical failures at the very top of organisations. However, such executive management blowouts, while dramatic, are nonetheless rare. Instead, key ethical issue lie on the every-day level, where the ethical dilemmas in the individuals’ actions and decisions in their work within the organisations can be potentially more costly to the company as a whole; how they interact with customers, design products, write reports, or deliver services are critical in maintaining an organisation’s integrity and trust within the professional environment the company faces (Tichy, McGill, 2003iv).
Several noted authors in the field of ethics offer comprehensive definitions of the topic, and three components, directives or models are discussed below.
Organisational ethics is a systematic study of organisations from an ethical point of view (Wilkie, 2003v, p.21), taking into account the high standards expected by employees.
The components are:
- An analysis of individuals’ activities from a moral point of view, together with the roles they play, the practices they engage in and their rights and duties.
- The analysis of the aim, structure, values and activities of organisations.
- The analysis of the general social system in which the organisations carry out their activities. (Source: Wilkie, 2003vi, p.21)
A code of ethics must be clearly communicated from the top down, to everyone within the organisation. Transactional leaders are working within the status quo - the change they initiate tends to be technical. Transformational leaders try to change or free up the status quo, redefining it as a new set of roles, expectations and behavioural patterns (Garofalo 2003)vii. In other words, they practice outstanding leadership by inspiring employees to rise above their self-interests for the good of the company (Bass, Avolio,1990viii).
Developing viable codes of ethics within organisations presupposes a good workable model for theoretical decision-making in organisational learning (Wells, Spinks, 1994ix).
Source: Wells, Spinks, 1996x, p.29
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While CEO/General Manager of a start-up company3in 1997, one of my priorities focused on how we could best convey to the customer, our employees and the social & professional environment, the same commitment to and pride in the organisation as was evident in North America, supporting and expanding their reputation for fairness and honesty in Europe. This priority came as a reflection of my own personal belief that leaders and employees are responsible for conducting the business affairs of the corporation in a moral, ethical and honest manner and in accordance with all applicable laws.
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