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  • This chapter explores issues, policies, and problems related to ethics, fair treatment,

  • discipline and termination of employees. These issues have become more critical in today's

  • environment. Some of our objectives are: To explain what is meant by ethical behavior

  • at work; discuss important factors that shape ethical behavior; describe specific ways in

  • which HR management can influence ethical behavior, and to employ fair disciplinary

  • practices.

  • Ethics refers to "the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group." Ethical

  • decisions also involve morality, which is society's accepted standards of behavior.

  • Unfortunately, it is not always clear which decisions are ethical and which are not. In

  • many cases we use the law as a benchmark to determine our behavior. However, the law is

  • not always the best guide about what is ethical because something may be legal but not right,

  • and something may be right but not legal. We were all raised with essentially the same

  • values: "Don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal." Ethics means making decisions that represent

  • what you stand for, not just what is legal.

  • Experts generally define organizational justice in terms of three components: distributive

  • justice, procedural justice, and interactional, or interpersonal, justice.

  • Let's discuss these components using a performance appraisal example. Distributive justice refers

  • to the perceived fairness of the decision's result. So the question here is, "Do you,

  • as an employee, feel that the end result of the performance evaluation was fair." Once

  • again, we are looking at the perceived end result or outcome.

  • Procedural justice refers to the fairness of the process. Here, the question we could

  • ask is, "Do you believe the process the organization uses to do their performance evaluations is

  • fair? Are their methods fair?"

  • Interactional, or interpersonal, justice refers to "the manner in which managers conduct their

  • interpersonal dealings with employees," and in particular to the degree to which they

  • treat employees with dignity as opposed to abuse or disrespect. The question here is,

  • "Does the organization treat all employees similarly and with respect? In relation to

  • performance appraisal, do they give feedback in a private area where the employees feel

  • comfortable and do they do this for everyone?

  • There are several factors that shape the ethics of an organization. The first are individual

  • factors. Because people bring to their jobs their own ideas of what is morally right and

  • wrong, the individual must shoulder much of the credit (or blame) for their behavior.

  • There are also organizational factors; the scary thing about unethical behavior at work

  • is that it's not necessarily driven by personal interests. Studies show ethical lapses occur

  • because employees feel pressure to do what they think is best to help their companies.

  • The boss also has a tremendous amount of influence on behavior. The manager sets the tone, and

  • by his or her actions sends signals about what is appropriate behavior. For example,

  • if you see the boss take a longer lunch break, then what signal does that send to you?

  • Having an ethics policy, or code, is a signal that the firm is serious about ethics. Sometimes

  • ethics codes work, and sometimes they don't. In many cases it depends on how often the

  • organization enforces the policy and reminds employees of the expected behavior outlines

  • in the code.

  • Lastly, the organizational culture helps to define what is expected. Organizational culture

  • is the characteristic values, traditions, and behaviors a company's employees share.

  • To an outside observer, a company's culture reveals itself in several ways. You can see

  • it in employees' patterns of behavior, such as ceremonial events and written and spoken

  • commands. You can also see it in the physical manifestations of a company's behavior, such

  • as its written rules, office layout, organizational structure, and dress codes.

  • There are many reasons to treat employees fairly. Some of the outcomes of both the organization

  • and the employee include: reduced number of workplace lawsuits; increased employee commitment;

  • increased work satisfaction and the increased number of organizational citizenship behaviors

  • (or OCBs). OCBs are behaviors individuals engage in, not because they are required to,

  • but because they help other coworkers or the organization succeed. For example, agreeing

  • to help pick up the slack for an ailing coworker without some sort of reward or incentive is

  • considered an OCB.

  • There are several specific ways that HR can directly cultivate an ethical workforce. For

  • example, screening out undesirables can actually start before the applicant even applies, if

  • the HR department creates recruitment materials containing explicit references to the company's

  • emphasis on integrity and ethics. The selection process also sends signals about what the

  • company's value and culture really are, in terms of ethical and fair treatment.

  • Training is also a key issue. Ethics training typically plays a big role in helping employers

  • nurture a culture of ethics and fair play. Such training usually includes showing employees

  • how to recognize ethical dilemmas, how to use ethical frameworks to resolve problems,

  • and how to use HR functions in ethical ways.

  • The firm's performance appraisal process provides another opportunity to emphasize its commitment

  • to ethics and fairness. The appraisal can actually measure employees' adherence to high

  • ethical standards. It also rewards individuals for their ethical behavior and vice versa.

  • Workplace aggression and violence are increasingly serious problems. Many HR actions, including

  • layoffs, promotion decisions, terminations, and discipline can prompt perceptions of unfair

  • treatment that translate into dysfunctional behavior. The way the organization handles

  • these issues from the beginning can go a long way towards curbing feelings of unfairness.

  • For example, if an organization must layoff some employees, providing these employees

  • with counseling or referring them to an employment agency can help these displaced individuals

  • feel less anxious about the transition. It also helps them to feel like their company

  • cares about them and is sorry to let them go.

  • The purpose of discipline is to encourage employees to behave sensibly at work. In an

  • organization, rules and regulations serve the same purpose that laws do in society;

  • discipline is called for when one of these rules or regulations is violated. A fair and

  • just discipline process is based on three pillars: clear rules and regulations, a system

  • of progressive penalties, and an appeals process. The organization must have a discipline policy

  • to help ensure order but that does not mean they have the right to infringe upon your

  • right to privacy. The courts have upheld an employee's right to privacy, both in and outside

  • of work. Some employer violations include: intrusion; publication of private matters;

  • disclosure of medical records; and the appropriation of an employee's name or likeness.

  • Some actions by employers that have triggered privacy violations include: background checks

  • without the employee's consent, monitoring off-duty conduct and lifestyle, non-work related

  • drug testing, workplace searches without probable cause, and monitoring of workplace behavior

  • and communications without your knowledge.

  • The ECPA restricts the employer from monitoring or intercepting oral and wire communications.

  • However, via the "business purpose exception," an employer may monitor communication for

  • legitimate business purposes. Additionally, employers may monitor communication with an

  • employee's consent.

  • Defining and describing the law is easy; it is the application of the laws that makes

  • ethics and fair treatment of employees complicated. In the end, it's all about treating people

  • how you wish to be treated.

This chapter explores issues, policies, and problems related to ethics, fair treatment,

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HR Management: Ethics & Fairness

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    Grace Wang posted on 2016/05/19
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