Each week I would like to focus on a topic that has become interesting to me; if there are topics that you would like to me to write about or topics in which you would like me to expound, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I am looking forward to writing these opinions and would like as much feedback as possible. I’ve chosen as this week’s topic, ETHICS and LEGALITIES IN THE WORKPLACE. I’ve chosen this topic due to the fact that I’ve had employers in the past 10 years that have shown a serious lack thereof….
ETHICS and LEGALITIES IN THE WORKPLACE
Most individuals involved in business….be they business owners, employers, employees or CEO’s of multinational companies….eventually will have to face ethical or moral dilemmas in the workplace. Such decisions are usually complex, for they force the person making the decision to weigh the benefits that various business decisions impart on individuals (including him or herself) and groups with the negative repercussions that those same decisions usually have on other individuals or groups. We all probably know that reaching a ‘right’ or ‘just’ conclusion when faced with moral problems can be a bewildering and vexing proposition. However, business people are likely to reach and act on morally appropriate decisions if they do not lose sight of the fundamental issue of fairness. Those who get sidetracked by issues of profitability, legality and egocentric needs in gauging the morality of a business decision, often reach ethically skewed choices. As has often been proven over and over again in the business world, the legality of a course of action may be totally irrelevant to its ‘rightness’. In addition, most discussions regarding business ethics is a subjective one, for everyone brings different concepts of ethical behavior to the table. These moral standards are shaped by all sorts of things, from home environment to religious upbringing to cultural traditions. However, illicit and illegal behaviors are another matter.
American society places a great emphasis on success, which in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It is perfectly justifiable to want to make full use of one’s talents and provide for oneself and one’s family. People involved in the world of business, however, often face situations in which advancement – whether in position, influence or financial stature – can be gained but only by hurting other individuals or groups. Small business owners are confronted with these choices even more than other people of the business world because of the greater degree of autonomy in decision making that they often enjoy. However, the ethical decision of small business owners are likely to impact far greater number of people than are the ethical decisions of small business owner’s employees. Very often, an employee’s ethical choices (to claim credit for the work of another, to falsify number of hours worked, etc.) have an impact on a relatively small number of people, usually co-workers and his/her employer. The ethical choices of business owners, however – whether to choose not to pay trust fund taxes on a timely basis, whether to choose to ignore the federal/state guidelines/rules/laws on paying overtime, whether to place employees in a poorly functioning HMO/medical program or have a disregard for the type of medical program the employees are entered into, whether to lay off a number of workers due to poor personal financial planning, whether to falsify information on Requests for Proposal from a national client, etc. – often have far more wide-ranging repercussions.
Indeed, the pressure for small business owners to make morally compromised and legal choices on behalf of the company they lead can be quite powerful, no matter what type of organization. Some business analysts contend that American small businesses – and their leaders – are more prone to ignore ethics and legalities as part of their decision making process than ever before.
Business owners and managers should lead by example. If a business owner treats employees, customers and competitors in a fair and honest manner – and suitably penalize those that do not perform in a similar fashion – he or she is far more likely to have an ethical work force of which he or she can be proud. ‘Quite apart from rightness and wrongness, the fact is that ethical behavior in business serves the individual and the enterprise much better in the long run.’