As society has seen over the last few decades, ethics had not been at the forefront of organizational decision-making and change processes as it should have been. Unfortunately because of the actions or lack of actions by the few, many lives have been devastated and society’s view of corporate organizations has been severely damaged. Between government interventions, and organizational realizations, ethics seem to have become a focal point during the decision making and change processes. Most organizations realize that changes must occur to maintain, sustain, and grow, and the inclusion of ethical considerations is imperative to sound decisions and implementation. Organizations must make a commitment to themselves and society, to uphold a high level of ethical standards and behaviors, to ensure the view of the organization remains positive. Simply stated, ethics are beliefs individuals and organizations have that determine what standards or behaviors are deemed to be appropriate or inappropriate.
According to Sonenshein (2009), there is a theory about the emergence of ethical issues during the change process (Sonenshein, 2009, p. 230). Sonenshein (2009) explains that the starting issues found in change are, “trigger points, ambiguity, and employee welfare frame” (Sonenshein, 2009, p. 230). Sonenshein (2009) further explains that the starting issues found during the implementation of change, refer to an individual’s sense-making about the organizational change (Sonenshein, 2009). Sense-making, according to Palmer, Dunford, and Akin (2006) “is a significant part of importance to understanding the change” (Palmer, Dunford & Akin, 2006, p. 190). When one does not have a clear understanding of the changes occurring, and the effect or consequences the change will have on him or her and the position held within the organization, emotions tend to become involved. One emotion described by Sonenshein (2009) is that an individual may perceive during the change process, is “loss,” which he explains may also lead to an individual believing that he or she has been treated unfairly (Sonenshein, 2009, p. 231).
To further add to ethical change issues, if the directives created for the change are not clear and concise, the interpretation of what is to occur can have multiple meanings and cause confusion. Ambiguity occurs when, “an organization has a vision but is not prescriptively clear on how to achieve it” (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2006, p. 268). Palmer, Dunford, and Akin (2006) explain the importance of communication during change implementation as well as factors that help to create a sense of confusion. The three factors mentioned are, “message overload, message distortion, and message ambiguity” (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2006, p. 268). The purpose of communication is to ensure each individual understands the changes to occur, the reasons for the change, and the effects expected from the change.
The individual must have the ability to make sense of the change, understand the social impacts of the change, to ensure he or she is willing to “buy-in” to the change. The “employee welfare frame” is explained as a thought process some employees choose to use to determine the impact the organization’s change will have on him or her, and any inherent rights that may be infringed upon because of the change (Sonenshein, 2009). As explained by Sonenshein (2009), “poorly managed change efforts erode organizations relational health” (Sonenshein, 2009, p. 233). For an organization to achieve a successful change, the stakeholders must see the benefits associated with the change. The stakeholders must also have a clear view of the organizations vision and mission to accept and commit.
Some organizations may take short-cuts in efforts to speed-up the change process; others may conceal information from employees and external entities that may be vital to gaining acceptance and commitment, thus damaging how the organization is viewed by stakeholders. Ethics in business must remain at the forefront of any decisions or changes during discussions or implementations. As seen, ethics in business is not confined to simply financial reporting; ethics encompasses every facet of organizational health and growth.
Palmer, I., Dunford, R., & Akin, G. (2006). Managing Organizational Change: A Multiple Perspectives Approach, 1e. Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database. Sonenshein, S. (2009,
Jan/Feb). Emergence of Ethical Issues during Strategic Change Implementation. Organization Science, 20(1), 223-239. Retrieved August 23, 2013 from http://sonenshein.rice.edu/uploadedFiles/Publications/Sonenshein_emergence%20of%20ethical%20issues%20during %20strategic%20change%20Org%20Science.pdf