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Factors affecting Ethical Behavior

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To understand what is the work ethics and what is meant by ethical behavior and what are the factors influencing the ethical behavior, we need to know the meaning of some key words.

Ethics is a philosophical term derived from the Greek word “ethos” meaning character or custom and can be defined as the code of moral principles that sets standards of bad or good or wrong or right in one’s conduct.

Work ethics can be defined as carrying out one’s business in a morally correct and honorable manner. It is all about doing the right thing, in the right way for the right reason.

Ethical behavior is that which is accepted to be right or good opposed to bad or wrong in the context of the governing moral code.

For example, is it ethical to pay a bribe to obtain a business contract in a foreign country? Is it ethical to allow your company to withhold information that might discourage a job candidate from joining your organization? Is it ethical to ask someone to take a job you know will not be good for their career progress? Is it ethical to do personal business on company time? The list of examples could go on and on. Despite one’s initial inclinations in response to these questions, the major point of it all is to remind organizations that the public-at-large is demanding that government officials, managers, workers in general, and the organizations they represent all act according to high ethical and moral standards. The future will bring a renewed concern with maintaining high standards of ethical behavior in organizational transactions and in the workplace.

In practical life, Good people do not want to work for an unethical company. They want to be part of a company that is committed to doing the right thing.

The best example that describes and explains the words ethics, work ethics and ethical behavior is being driven from the practical business.
Halliburton as an international company working in the field of oil services has its own Code of Business Conduct that consists of the policies relating to the ethical and legal standards of conduct to be followed by employees and agents of the Company in the conduct of its business. The Code describes the standards of conduct expected from the employee and identifies some of the specific areas of law that are most likely to affect him while working for the Company.The policy of the Company is to comply with applicable law. Some Company policies are based on the requirements of applicable law and others are just good ethics and business sense.

Factors influencing ethical behavior

Three main factors are influencing ethical behavior and are linked to each other, these three factors are, the person, the organization and the environment.

The Person

Ethical beliefs of people in organizational settings and the factors that influence those beliefs are family influences, religious values, personal standards, and personal needs. If we say, “What’s right depends on what the individual believes is right,” we have absolutely no basis on which to condemn the actions of someone like Hitler. If a terrorist really believes that killing innocent people is right, how can we say that he’s doing something wrong? If it all depends on the individual, why should our opinion count for more than his? Obviously, any system of ethics that can’t condemn Hitler or terrorism leaves an enormous amount to be desired. For all practical purposes, making the individual the ultimate moral authority reduces ethical disagreements to something akin to disputes about taste, likes or dislikes.

Emotions even can be relevant to an ethical analysis. If we feel that lying is wrong, examining your feelings may show you what some of your reasons are. Your feelings may be based on specific points of objection–like your concern that the person being lied to is being manipulated. Or emotions may¬†be important in ethics in a different way. Let’s say we’re weighing two murder cases. In one of them, the killer is a hit-man who calmly and professionally killed a major politician. In the other, your friend finally gets tired of being beaten by her husband and kills him in a furious rage. The difference in the emotional states of these two people is surely significant, and you may hold your friend less responsible for what she did. People’s emotions affect why and how they do certain things. And this is relevant to analyzing and evaluating human behavior.

Religions also can be relevant to the person ethical behavior, most people probably associate ideas of right and wrong with religions more than anything else. This is understandable since one of the main functions of religion is to advise people how to live. Having been religious in a conventional way earlier in my life and now being religious in an unconventional way, I can appreciate how important religions are to people who believe in them. They comfort and protect us in a way that no government, school, business or other earthly institution can

Match. In the face of human hatreds, the threat of nuclear destruction, a universe exploding headlong into infinity, and our own storm tossed days, religions give us a sense that life isn’t quite as bleak as it seems. The world becomes ordered and purposeful, and we have our own special, protected niche. The winds aren’t quite so biting, the bumps less jarring.

The Organization

Open communication between employees and managers, in both directions, and¬†between all levels is the cornerstone of an ethical organization, because it helps people feel valued. But also, an open line of communication is essential to ethically sound decisions –communicating values and sharing good and bad news gives people the perspective they need, to help them consider the implications of their decisions. The goal of open¬†communications must be pursued vigorously and relentlessly: The benefits, in individual morale and better decisions, are worth the effort. Manager’s actions communicate much more eloquently then their words, written or oral. Associates and employees will believe what they observe, whether or not those observations are consistent with what they read or hear.

Having a company code of ethics is valuable, but only when that code is communicated consistently throughout the firm, and when the company’s actions are consistent with the code. In fact, a written code that is not supported by consistent company actions is worse than no code at all, because the hypocrisy of an ignored code breeds cynicism. An established code will need to be reviewed on a periodic basis, to be sure that it deals with the issues currently facing the employees.

To make the code more effective, as a model, it must be baked into the culture of the firm, for example, by making annual bonuses contingent on an appraisal from peers and subordinates as to how well the employee carried out the company’s ethical ideas. Regular, mountaintop, refresher courses on ethical decision making (and the company’s code) will help all employees keep their perspective. Even the most careful managers can become focused on the day-to-day-trees and lose sight of the larger forest. Well designed refresher courses can help managers and employees stretch their imaginations and make more informed moral assessments. Cases and simulations are useful in preparing people for difficult issues that they are sure to face in their real world work.

An example from the practical life is that The Code of Business Conduct of Halliburton Company that consists of the policies relating to the ethical and legal standards of conduct to be followed by Directors, employees and agents of the Company in the conduct of its business. Company policy requires Directors, employees and agents to observe high standards of business and personal ethics in the conduct of their duties and responsibilities. Directors and employees must practice fair dealing, honesty and integrity in every aspect of dealing with other Company policy prohibits unlawful discrimination against employees, shareholders, Directors, officers, customers or suppliers on account of race, color, age, sex, religion or national origin. All persons shall be treated with dignity and respect and they shall not be unreasonably interfered with in the conduct of their duties and responsibilities

The Environment

The truth of the matter is that ethics is a function neither of laws nor Codes but of¬†individual’s environment. For example, almost every country has stiff laws against¬†Demanding bribes on the part of government employees. In addition, employees are¬†regularly sent to value orientation and ethics workshops, and posters abound in¬†government offices telling all and sundry to behave properly, not to accept bribes.¬†But if a lowly releasing clerk in a licensing office knows that the big boss demands¬†and receives a monthly under-the-table quota from all his inspectors in the field, then¬†that lowly clerk will most likely feel that there is nothing wrong with demanding a¬†little something for every license he releases.¬†Multiply this scenario several hundred times over in the public service and it¬†becomes obvious that not a thousand seminars on moral-ethical behavior nor a¬†thousand Codes of Conduct will make much of difference for ordinary government¬†employees.

On the other hand, take a scrupulously clean boss who, on his own accord, lives¬†by all that is expected of government officials and employees. Furthermore, as a¬†boss he does not countenance any misbehavior by his subordinates and swiftly metes out sanctions without fear or favor.¬†Given such a scenario, a lowly clerk who may not have had the benefit of a¬†seminar on moral-ethical values will most likely refuse an offered bribe. He will do¬†so not only because of what is right and what is wrong has been clearly defined and¬†he is reminded to do what is right. He will do the right thing because people around¬†him generally do what is right while those who don’t inevitably receive the¬†appropriate sanction.

The value of laws such as the Code of Ethics is that they serve as guideposts to¬†moral-ethical behavior .Many people think that something is “wrong” only if the law prohibits it; conversely, if the law allows it, it’s o.k. Ethical¬†behavior, cannot be sustained as a primordial concern of the business world. Therefore, government has to come in and set norms and standards and enforce them through the regulatory powers of its various agencies. Clearly, that which is prohibited by law is unethical. But in the conduct of business and trade, there is often a large gray area wherein the distinctions between right and wrong are not so clear. What may be perceived to be unethical by a firm’s competitors may well be justified as simply aggressive marketing methods. Thus, self-regulation or self-policing comes into play, either through professional or occupational groupings or by industry or trade sectors, such as chambers of commerce. While ethical behavior in the corporate/business world usually implies striking and maintaining a fine balance between aggressive business policies on the one hand and proper corporate behavior on the other, ethical behavior is supposed to be the all-encompassing norm in government.

References:

1- Internet site http://www.csc.gov.ph

2- Halliburton Code Of Business Conduct

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