Ethical or Unethical Behavior in Business

Discussions around ethical behavior are diverse and can be controversial. Ethics is the capacity of knowing what is right or wrong (moral), being able to discern good conduct as an individual or in a group. Behavior is to act in a certain way as an individual no matter the situation or circumstance.

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The two definitions interact with one another. Ethical behavior in organizations intend to act in ways that are in conformity with the ethical values of the organization. (Lupuleac, Lupuleac, Rusu, 2012). Three articles will be compartmentalize for similarities and differences for ethical behavior, collaborating themes, and recommendations regarding its use. Understanding how businesses choose ethical or unethical behavior warrants a deeper perspective and these three articles touch on those understandings.

Similarities and Differences

Bailey (2014), argues about competitive actions and how they can be consistent with everyday morality. There can be two types of actions within a competitive business model, principled action and self-interest action. Principled action is a form of competitive action that shows ethic of hard work, capitalizes on all opportunities, and makes sacrifices (Bailey, 2014). This can be misconstrued for self-interest action because of how an outsider can perceive the competitor. Self-interest action is acting in a way that benefits only the competitor or person, whether that is positive or negative. The point is that both actions can serve as an everyday morality. There is no reason as to why competitive businesses cannot use morality, for example, treating others as you would like to be treated (Bailey, 2014).

In contrast, Choy (2012) writes from the perspective of the consumer and explains how society perceives corporate America as unethical businesses that cannot be trusted. Consumers notices and recognize why it’s important for organizations to have ethical standards when making a profit and how it affects society when unethical decisions are made by CEO’s/managers. The three main points why organizations should be socially responsible are due to federal regulations, managers making ethical decisions for the greater good (society), and raising the bar to ethical issues in how a profit is made (Choy, 2012). Concluding, ““the balance and integration of performance, productiveness, and stakeholder values can provide gains in both economic and moral terms” (Stainer & Stainer, 1996), which means, when organizations are responsible socially they can make profits and serve the society” (Choy, 2012, p.45).

When organizations are not socially responsible managers put their efforts in profits alone and that is when unethical problems arise due to the pressure it causes the employees to meet the mark. In order to rectify unethical behavior is to admit wrongdoing and allow your actions will speak louder than your words.

Similar to Choy, Zenica-Livia Lupuleac, Simona Lupuleac, and Costache Rusu examines how managers feel in plight of an economic crisis, what measures can be taken to prevent unethical behaviors. Having an economic crisis can bring out the worst in any organization. Why do people choose unethical behavior in an economic crisis? There are some causes that lead to unethical behavior and those causes are pressure, fear, personal gain even if it means to part from the rules, self-interest (vs greater good), competition between employees (Lupuleac, Lupuleac, Rusu, 2012). Being able to modify the behaviors that are exhibited during an economic crisis for an organization can have positive outcomes for the employees and the management team, which directly affects business assets. When an economic crisis strikes unethical behaviors arise and this is why organizations need to have preventative plans in place to curtail an unethical behavior. There are some direct links with causes and measures to prevent unethical behavior but one measure that transcends over all five causes of unethical behavior is training for all employees including the managers (Lupuleac, Lupuleac, Rusu, 2012). Training is important for all employees but especially the first year of hire. Training can communicate the organizations expectations regarding employee decision making (Adam and Moore, 2004).

Collaborating Themes

The outcome for these three articles are choosing to exercise ethical behavior is not unitary but the collective group should exercise it as well, keeping the greater good mantra in mind, and when unethical behavior is present it is usually due to a cause. When unethical decisions are made by employees or managers it is not just the one person who suffers but the entire organization. This is a form of self-interest, which can be viewed as a win-lose outcome (Heath 2007, pg. 361). For example, if managers are only attentive to the bottom line everyone else is deemed expendable that can be replaced whenever necessary (Choy, 2012). That is why it is important to have procedures in place for managers supervise employee behavior, employees supervise their peers via compliance with the organizations policies (Lupuleac, Lupuleac, Rusu, 2012).

When businesses are able to delineate what is ethical and unethical they are in a position to change the culture, recruit people with same values, and remediate when events do not operate accordingly. When an unethical practice is exposed to society and within the organization it is imperative to admit wrong and responsibly exhibit social awareness, transparency, and take action to rectify the problem. For example, Tylenol pulled its’ product, costing the business millions but the society viewed that as an act of decency and it is one of the most trusted brands to society (Choy, 2012). Another way that we can instill everyday morality is to train staff. Having staff go through an ethical training process can abate unethical behavior due to setting expectations and cultural tone that being unethical will not be tolerated.

Lastly, unethical behavior is prevalent when there is a cause. As stated before when managers place pressure and/or punish employees for not meeting sales or profits this causes unethical behavior to arise. Staff can also be fearful of losing their jobs if they are not performing, so the staff take matters in their own hands which is most likely unethical. Competitive action within the organization can lead to staff to have an unethical behavior by participating in illegal acts. Needless to say if there is no regulation of what people are doing they can devise something that is worse than intended.

Evaluation and Recommendations

After examining these articles, only two were informative in a sense of being able to use the information for reference. Being able to have data to see the impact of unethical behavior on an organization or society had more relevance of the outcomes instead of an argumentative viewpoint. The objectiveness of the two quantitative research papers had more fidelity than the subjective one. The two articles were compelling because they were parallel to each other (one viewpoint of a consumer/society and one managerial) and both had numerus trends. The one article had a tone of a hostile debate that was hard to understand due to the over usage of examples that were lengthy.

Conclusion

Being ethical can be hard in times of desperation. As a business the responsibility to maintain ethical standards are important to the reputation and brand. If businesses chose to be unethical, the results can affect multiple entities. Working for a business that does not value ethics can impact employees and their status with the company. Purchasing products from a company that is not reputable can diminish sells. It is not only important but crucial for business to implement and maintain ethical standards that benefits the reputation of the business and the society.  

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