One of the challenges faced by supervisors is the management and practice of ethical decision making. An organization presents itself with several ethical dilemmas. Most ethical decision making frameworks have three factors impacting decision making. Ethical dilemma may be presented by the conduct of an individual or an organization in general, the systems used for judgement or ethical reasoning and the manner in which an ethical issue is perceived (Husted & Allen, 2008).
Supervisors often face situations of ethical dilemma when they are operating in a cross cultural environment. This dilemma is highly impacted by collectivism and individualism. The clash against the interest of the individual as compared with the community interest may in itself present an instance of ethical dilemma. Especially in mitigating conflicts, ethical dilemma with reference to individualism and collectivism can be a serious challenge. This is because individuals who stress on attaining group objectives as compared with personal objectives optimize benefits and redress conflicts in different manner as compared with those stressing to attain individual objectives. This may be attributed to the difference in opinion on sharing software and job security in collectivist and individualist cultures (Colquitt, Lepine & Wesson, 2013).
An instance of ethical dilemma present in an organization was with respect of accepting and receiving favours. Dilemmas with respect to accepting favours to get work done is highly challenging. Especially in the context of global firms, practices and customs require an individual to accept or engage in doing favours in order to get work done. The acceptance of favours may be viewed in an unfavourable manner as the acceptance of bribes in some cultures whereas in others it may be socially acceptable.
An example of this is the transactions required to acquire business permits is a component of formal economic practices whereas using favours to expedite these permits is an informal economic practice. This in itself presents an ethical dilemma to the individual (Puffer, McCarthy & Peng, 2012). Depending on the weak formal and legal institutions in developing and transition economies, most individuals may be forced to use such practices.
The decision making on ethics commences by identifying a particular issue which falls under moral jurisdiction. The moral jurisdiction entails activities which helps in judging right and wrong as compared with judging individual likes and dislikes. Moral conduct is highly dependent on culture. Globally, activities psychologically and physically harming other individuals are condemned. However, there are several activities which may be victimless or harmless that may be socially acceptable and unacceptable across diverse cultures. Most western cultures have a permissive ideal towards activities which does not intentionally harm individuals. On the other hand, developing nations have a narrow jurisdiction of morality resulting in widely conducting harmless activities like the acceptance of favours and bribes to expedite work (Husted & Allen, 2008).
Resolving ethical dilemma
The global ethical code conducted strictly prohibited the acceptance and receipt of favours. However, operating in a developing economy, required the company to give bribes and favours so as to expedite the work. In this context, the ethical policy was modified to align with the customs and values present in the country of operation. This is mainly because ethics is highly dependent on the culture prevailing in a particular country or region. The prevalent culture in most developing nations have narrow ethical domain and hence supervisors have to often engage in activities which present an ethical dilemma.
One of the several challenges faced in the corporate firm is the manner in which corporate corruption is practiced. Personnel intentionally engage in conducting unethical conduct as leaders display an example of unethical behaviour and often encourages the subordinate to practice the same. Firms, most often engage in unethical conduct to fight competition. They may deliberately launch a faulty product in the market so that they are able to remain in competition. This is a severe lapse in ethics. Despite being aware of pertinent issues, individuals wish to remain silent as being a whistle-blower may result in the individual being terminated from employment. The acceptance and receipt of favours in nations having loose moral domain may lead to such ethical malpractices. Hence, organizations should strictly formulate ethical codes and in their conduct of harmless ethical practices should ensure that the practice results in organizational profit without compromising on societal welfare.
Some of the most significant dilemmas faced by organization in ethical decision making may be in the line of deciding to implement short term or long term objectives, community welfare versus personal welfare, loyalty as against truth and mercy as against justice. Most of the times, an individual may go for the ethical path which is in sync with the culture and values of the individual. Sometimes, supervisors may also have to take decision which go against their personal ethical view as they have to prioritize the welfare of the organization (Banaji, Bazerman & Chugh, 2013).
Organizational policies and ethics
Firms engage in training personnel in compliance and ethics, but ethical fallacies are widespread mainly due to organizational processes and cognitive prejudices which encourages unethical conduct in the workplace (Bazerman & Tenbrunsel, 2011). In order to resolve successful dilemmas firms need to broaden their ethical training programs to include unconscious devices that lead to prejudiced decision making. Managers should be vigilant while garnering information, conducting an environmental scan and finally widening the process of decision making. Supervisors should determine opportunities to put into action policies leading to positive conduct. To successfully resolve situations of ethical dilemma, it is essential that supervisors free their minds from perceived stereotypes and biases and be highly vigilant.
Most organizations have a formulated code of conduct. Despite this several ethical fallacies are conducted. Widespread scams with respect to financial laundering, corruption and bribery is rampant in the corporate literature. Organizations should strive to create a culture supporting ethics. In this context, Herzberg’s motivation theory is highly relevant. According to Herzberg, money is not the most powerful motivator for an individual. Individuals perceive other motivators like added responsibilities, learning opportunities, and recognition and appreciation for attainments. The organizational culture should emphasize on the right allocation of resources, and the manner in which diverse issues may be prioritized. Culture may be explained as a set of values and customs which help individuals to conduct activities and resolve issues in an acceptable manner (Christenson, 2010). Organizations which allocates the highest levels of priority to ethical issues and dilemmas often help in resolving or mitigating ethical problems. Such firms are those which align its policies and processes to suit the best ethical outcomes.
Ethical practices in organizations should be embedded in its policies, practices and the culture as a whole. However, depending on the country of operation, such practices may change based on the set of values and customs prevailing in the region. Multinational firms should engage in practicing best ethical practices in their decision making and ensure that ethical malpractices are evaded. Supervisors should have an open mind and not be prejudiced in their ethical judgements. Also, utmost priority should be provided in bringing a balance between societal and organizational welfare.
Banaji, M. R., Bazerman, M. H., & Chugh, D. (2003). How (un)ethical are you? HarvardBusinessReview, 81(12), 56–64.
Bazerman, M. H., & Tenbrunsel, A. E. (2011). Ethical breakdowns. Harvard Business Review, 89(4), 58–65.
Colquitt, J., Lepine, J., & Wesson, M. (2013). Organizational behavior: Improving performance and commitment in the workplace (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Christensen, C. M. (2010). How will you measure your life? Harvard Business Review, 88(7/8), 46–51.
Husted, B. W., & Allen, D. B. (2008). Toward a model of cross-cultural business ethics: The impact of individualism and collectivism on the ethical decision-making process. Journal of Business Ethics, 82(2), 293–305.
Puffer, S. M., McCarthy, D. J., & Peng, M. W. (2013). Managing favors in a global economy. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 30(2), 321–326.