To start with, taking ethical decisions within a company is impossible without a closer look at the relationship between an employer and an employee. Obviously, both hold different positions within a company and “have expectations, and rights, and offer consideration to the other” (Trevino & Nelson, 2004). There is a complex interrelationship between the way individuals view justice and fairness and the organizational position they take. On the one hand, their beliefs about fairness and what is right stem from the system of their individual values.
On the other hand, each position within an organization changes these individual values, expands or limits the scope of individual obligations and rights, and provides or deprives individuals of the right to impose their fairness decisions on others. In this context, the more authority an individual within an organization has, the more responsibility he carries for taking HR and other ethical decisions that impact the quality of organizational performance. There is no direct link between the level of one’s organizational authority and the extent to which one tends to misuse organizational power for taking ethical decisions.
However, due to the differences in ethical values and visions to which employees and employers adhere, companies are frequently involved into the process of resolving and eliminating the consequences of different ethical dilemmas. For some managers, authority and organizational power are viewed as the impulse for promoting justice and fairness, while others will tend to impose their views on employees without being attentive to their opinions and thoughts. In any case, the outcomes of each decision-making process will depend on whether employees and employers can find consensus regarding their expectations.
Trevino and Nelson (2004) write that while managers expect that employees behave in a certain way, employees also expect to be treated fairly and decently. That is why the development and implementation of codes of ethical conduct is usually aimed at providing employees in all positions with specific ethical guidelines, to ensure that in each ethical situation they behave and produce judgments in one and the same way.
Trevino, L. K. & Nelson, K. A. (2004). Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right. John Wiley & Sons.
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