Ethical decision-making is important for businesses. Trust and integrity must not be lost. There are three ethical concerns for the sales organization, which are (1) cheating, (2) misuse of company resources, and (3) inappropriate relationships with other employees.
In fact, losing a customer or client’s trust is fatal stroke for businesses. Famous management expert Stephen Covey suggests that trust is the cornerstone for productivity in the market. Once customers lose faith and trust in an organization, that organization has lost ground in the market.
Employees are motivated by different stimulus. In fact, different employees have different motivations. Motivation produces psychological forces that determine the direction of a person’s behavior in an organization. In my technical field, there are few things that are impossible to accomplish; it’s a matter of time versus money.
However, finding these solutions depend on a personal drive. In many organizations, supervisors search for the magical ingredient to improve employee performance so that the organization can be successful. This initiative isn’t easy!
For example, a salesperson might be motivated to earn high commissions at any cost. He knows his management is only concerned with the bottom-line. At the end of the year, his sales manager responses in anger to this salesperson, “You’ve committed the company to something to which we cannot commit.” Therefore, being promoting selfish behavior can cost a business in the long run.
Organizations must train and create a good ethical environment. Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management, further argue effective managers fully utilize their human resources to gain a competitive advantage. Developing the desired behavior in employees is invaluable.
In many cases, employees exist in a transactional relationship (if you do this, you will get that). For example, a sales representative for Mary Kay will get a pink Cadillac if she reaches the designated sales limit. In fact, business perks are pretty routine.
Most people have an internal compass that allows them to distinguish right from wrong. For example, an employee might be tempted to take a bribe from his company’s competitor. Johnston and Marshall make a clear distinction between a gift and a bribe. A bribe is a financial present given to manipulate the purchase decision.
In an effective ethical system, an employee would not compromise the trust with the company, including any internal customers (supervisor, manufacturing group, etc.).
Finally, there will be numerous situations that test a person’s moral behavior in organizations. Ethical decision making is a way of life. Businesses must create good ethical systems where employees are accountable for their conduct. Trust must be at the center stage of the process.
Discuss your professional experience with making ethical decisions in your industry.
© 2014 by Daryl D. Green
34 thoughts on “Ethical Decision Making”
I thought I would compare some things I witnessed regarding ethics in a prior company I worked for, and my current. Both companies deal with third parties. I will have to be a little vague due to legal reasons.
My former company had no ethics training. This was a competitive sales environment. Bonuses were paid based on performance and you had some leeway in what you could do to make deals. Managers and owners would make some questionable decisions regarding perks and deals that were made. Some employees would “estimate” their numbers as well. Some were caught, many were not. Rumors and backstabbing were constant, and moral was very low.
The company I work for now has extensive ethics training. This is a consulting/outsourcing operation. We are in transition as we were acquired and are still rolling over to the new company, but we received highly detailed ethical training from both companies, and even more so now. While there are issues, most is related to change. We do not have any known ethical problems and morale is high.
A study by Lloyd and Mey found that the ethical conduct of an organization correlated heavily into the overall success of the organization (2010). To expand on that, my former employer is currently dealing with a large lawsuit due to dishonest business practices. I am not aware of any ongoing lawsuits with my current employer.
Lloyd, H. R., & Mey, M. R. (2010). An ethics model to develop an ethical organisation. South African Journal of Human Resource Management, 8(1), 1-12.
Thanks for the personal example!
The company I just left offered no ethics training either and it stands to reason because the owner is one of the most unethical people I’ve ever encountered. It’s interesting how individuals will carry such traits from their personal lives into their professional lives. Most people will use their moral compass to guide them in all areas of their lives. It’s very unfortunate at the people that do not have that to apply.
Ethical decisions within the military are actually a gray area. It’s hard to say that, but for the most part every military person has good ethics and strives to be a source of good will to the community. Powers states, “Ethical values relate to what is right and wrong and thus take precedence over nonethical values when making ethical decisions” However, on the other side, when a service man is in battle when do you throw away ethics just for the sake of the mission? We know what is ethical but the mission is vital.
Military ethics deals with doing what is right even when no one sees what you are doing. When you’re engaged by the enemy in a battle you can do just about anything you need to get the mission accomplished.
The need to maintain an ethical persona and accomplish the mission is actually two missions in one. Which one do you follow, the ethical aspect knowing having ethics could cause death to your fellow troops or the mission aspect, where you do anything that needs to be done to win the battle? It’s a dilemma, I wouldn’t wish on anyone however; each service member must be prepared to answer this question on their own merits.
Powers R. (n.d.). Military Ethics and Conflict of Interest: Standards of Ethical Conduct. US Military. Retrieved from http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/generalinfo/a/stanconduct.htm
Interesting statements about the military. You should know.
However, do you feel it involves more ethical dilemmas in military living?
Paul, you said; “It’s a dilemma, I wouldn’t wish on anyone however; each service member must be prepared to answer this question on their own merits.”
As a proponent of non-violence, I don’t know that I could intentionally hurt another human being, even to protect myself. Yet, I’m grateful for our military and police forces. I know that there are people who are willing to make and carry through with a decision that I hope to never be faced with.
An article I recently read at http://www.army.mil talked about the ethics training being given at Fort Campbell Ky. The trainer Lt. Col. Peter G. Kilner, said; “We also have to live with the decisions we make, so we should do all we can to develop competence and confidence at making ethical decisions in complex, ambiguous circumstances. In war, things won’t always turn out the way we want, but at least we can know that we have done our best to prepare ourselves to make ethical decisions.” (Brown, 2012)
I’m also glad to see that our military leaders do not take ethics lightly. They take the time and effort to talk with and train military personnel in ethics and especially the ethics of battle. I’m heartened to know this is happening and at the same very sad to know that is must happen.
Brown, J. D. Sgt. 1st Class. (2012, Oct 24). Ethics of combat. Retrieved from http://www.army.mil/article/89854/Ethics_of_Combat/
You stated: When you’re engaged by the enemy in a battle you can do just about anything you need to get the mission accomplished.
My Response: I totally agree. In combat you do what needs to be done to accomplish the mission. In combat we make a lot of life or death decisions that affect many others. However, when we get back home we have to deal with the decisions we have made. French states, in a combat situation making the right decision could be the difference between keeping one’s humanity and character intact. With that being said, we are trained for combat situations but does our training prepare us to cope with the emotional and moral ramifications of combat?
French, S. (2003). Why Do Warriors Need A Code? Retrieved from: http://www.chivalrytoday.com/Essays/French/Warrior-Code-1.html
Kunz (2014) posits in her article that an example of an ethical decision is social responsibility. She states that “small businesses often donate a certain percent of profits or a set dollar amount to charities annually. Some companies become more involved, by hiring at-risk teens or low-income people and paying fair wages.” Since I do not have much of a professional working experience to be making ethical decisions, I thought highlighting some great examples would be a good idea. When I do start a career in my preferred industry I will have an idea of what decision to make.
Kunz, Marnie (2014) Examples of Making Ethical Decisions in Business. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/examples-making-ethical-decisions-business-30591.html on January 20, 2014
In a 2013 issue of Food Manufacture, Dan Crossley the new executive director of the Food Ethics Council, “highlights what he terms the “pass the buck” mentality that prevails when it comes to creating an ethical and sustainable food system. “The retailers are saying it’s not down to us, we’ll wait for consumers to take action, and manufacturers are saying we just do what retailers tell us, while government is saying we’re not here to tell people what to do.” All of this means you end up with a status quo and a vicious circle where we are not able to move forward” (The only way, 2013). This is a great example of how tough it can be to “do the right thing”. So often we wait for someone else to tell us or to create a road map for what we “should” do. In today’s work environment, it can be tough to stand out and especially to stand up and possibly alone for what you think is the “ethical choice.”
The only way is ethics. (2013). Food Manufacture, 88(4), 16-17.
In your statement you mentioned, “That it can be tough to do ‘the right thing’ in an ethical situation.” I agree with you on this point but it reminded me of an article I read on the possibility for acceptance of some unethical action within an industry if it promotes a greater good for all involved parties. “Just as our society tolerates some pollution as a byproduct of other useful activities, it may be useful to tolerate some of these ﬁnancial conﬂicts of interest” (Angel & McCabe). The authors question brings to mind a utilitarian stand point that many modern day national business owners stand behind. Utilitarians believe that in many cases the “pass the buck” metaphor would be a harsh way of rationalizing their actions in an imperfect marketplace. Often,the most correct ethical decision may be to allow some bad, or let someone else handle things, if any other action would disrupt the system for the the greatest number of parties involved.
Angel, J., McCabe, D. (2013). Ethical standards for stockbrokers: fiduciary or suitability?. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(1).
Interesting thought…a combination of utilitarianism and ‘passing the buck’ism! Businesses do use a variety of justifications for their actions.
The “pass the buck” mentality as you mentioned is something that exists in most (if not all) professional and business environments now. It has become common today for most of us to do what is the most profitable or gives us the best chance of avoiding conflict or trouble. From what I have observed, in corporate environments the common saying is “what makes the company the least liable.” Most ethical decisions now are made based upon whether it’s legal according to law as opposed to right or wrong from what I have seen in corporate settings.
Sales may be one of the highest impact fields where an ethical dilemma may occur and disrupt a company’s profitability. In any business there will always be a need for an ethical code that must be followed by management and those along the chain of command; where as trust may allow performance and productivity to flourish uninterrupted, but in the sales industry, customers must also be valued in order to obtain a competitive advantage. “Those businesses competing in the sales industry, particularly in those that work on commission (car sales& stockbrokers), are ranked among the lowest of all industries for ethical action by customers”(Collins). In a marketplace that is field with a lack of trust among consumers towards a specific product or service, ethical pr moves may be the only way to ensure a company will stand out among the competition.
Collins. Denis. (2012). Business Ethics: How to design and manage ethical organizations. John Wiley& Sons Inc. U.S. 109.
You stated: “In any business there will always be a need for an ethical code that must be followed by management and those along the chain of command”
My response: I agree that management needs to lead by example and implement the ethical values that the company holds dear. Actions speak louder than words, and if an employee sees management taking steps to keep ethical standards high, those actions will likely be followed. It is said that “the path from moral intention to moral action is not always easy” (Sanchez & Medina, 2013). This is true, often times it is much harder to act ethically than it is to put ethical policies in place. However, when a company as a whole, management included, gets on board with the implementation of high ethical standards, the benefits will be obvious.
Morales-Sánchez, R., & Cabello-Medina, C. (2013). The role of four universal moral competencies in ethical decision-making. Journal of Business Ethics, 116(4), 717-734. doi:10.1007/s10551-013-1817-9
I agree with you Amanda, in any Business, they should lead by example and always set forth by setting good Ethical standards and management procedures when dealing with the consumers best interests. Anytime that the customers are involved you must realize that one bad experience with one customer will spread with wild fire to ten people and then continues to spread over the next few days. So setting a positive example for the business and ethical decisions for the company are the best company decisions.
Woiceshyn, J. (2011). A Model for Ethical Decision Making in Business: Reasoning, Intuition, and Rational Moral Principles. Journal Of Business Ethics, 104(3), 311-323. doi:10.1007/s10551-011-0910-1
Valentine and Barnet (2007) present the process of decision-making in 4 parts: ethical recognition, ethical judgment, behavioral determination, and action. Like addiction recovery the first step to doing what is right is recognition. Awareness of that a dilemma is of an ethical nature is key to activating the moral compass within each of us (Valentine & Barnett, 2007).
I previously worked in an IT consulting and services firm. The firm was founded and operated by a group of individuals who valued those of high moral character and produced a culture of ethical behavior. However, the sales team would at times over commit the support staff, which caused the support staff to work many extra hours to deliver to customer expectations. The customer came first and was always satisfied, but the support staff developed poor relationship with sales persons who had the perception that they were selling to the benefit of the company. These Sales professionals are a highly moral group who desire to act in ethical ways, they have simply been blind to the fact that their decisions are of an ethical nature.
To improve relations between sales and those who deliver the products they sell organizations must provide training and communication in the specific areas where ethical problems are occurring (Valentine & Barnett, 2007). This training will allow the moral compass to take over when the specific ethical scenarios are presented to them (Valentine & Barnett, 2007).
– Valentine, S., & Barnett, T. (2007). PERCEIVED ORGANIZATIONAL ETHICS AND THE ETHICAL DECISIONS OF SALES AND MARKETING PERSONNEL. Journal Of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 27(4), 373-388.
Making an ethical decision is the “right” thing to do, but at times making the right decision isn’t easy. I have found that most individuals that I currently work with do their best to make sure the decisions they make are ethical. It is helpful to work with a group who is careful in making decisions that they feel will lead to the best, most ethical, outcome. An article in an online journal states, “ethical decision-making is a process constituted by all the stages an individual has to go through from the moment a moral problem arises until he or she engages in a given behavior” (Sanchez & Medina, 2013, para 6). This gives some insight on the importance of considering the decision to be made as well as the thought process that goes into making the decision. When an individual has strong ethical values, the process seems to end in an ethical decision with positive consequences.
Morales-Sánchez, R., & Cabello-Medina, C. (2013). The role of four universal moral competencies in ethical decision-making. Journal of Business Ethics, 116(4), 717-734. doi:10.1007/s10551-013-1817-9
Collins states, ethical dilemmas tend to be complicated and involve trade-offs based on competing values and interests (Collins 2012). Ethics in the law office, are there limits to the client-attorney confidentiality? An attorney takes a pledge to keep trusted information given to him by his client confidential. With that being said, does an attorney have an obligation to report the existence of the undiscovered bodies of his client’s victims to the authorities, or to the worried parents of the missing person? In United States v. Wade, Justice White gave a dissenting opinion where he restated the adversarial credo: [Unlike prosecutors,] defense counsel has no comparable obligation to ascertain or present the truth. . . . [W]e also insist that he defend his client whether he is innocent or guilty. . . . Defense counsel . . . need not furnish any witnesses to the police, or reveal any confidences of his client, or furnish any other information to help the prosecution’s case (388 U.S. 218, 1967). What do you do?
Collins, D. (2012). Business Ethics: How to design and manage ethical organizations. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
United States v. Wade. 388 U.S. 218 (1967). Retrieved from website: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=2405096012715955489&q=United+States+v.+Wade+(1967).+388+U.S.+218.&hl=en&as_sdt=6,43&as_vis=1
According to Collins, “ethical dilemmas tend to be complicated and involve trade-offs based on competing values and interests” (2012). It is important that organizations foster a culture of honestly and accountability. Being recognized as an ethical leader can set you apart.
There are many situations in our daily activities that present red flags. It is the ability to identify and have a sound understanding of the issues at hand. Many issues develop because someone does not understand the proper behavior.
In my professional experience it is about doing what is right from time sheets, relationships, and resources. I am surrounded by individuals with same core values and approach to work. Ethics is the foundation of our relationships with co-workers, friends, and clients.
Collins, D. (2012). Business Ethics: How to Design and Manage Ethical Organizations. Hoboken, NJ. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
In many of the decisions made on a day to day have an ethical answer and an unethical one. the companies that more times than not take the ethical approach to me are respectable and I am willing to pay more for their product. I think most customers will agree that the Ethical business will get their business. Im glad to know you work with ethical people and have a solid ethical foundation.
With Pilot Flying J currently under investigation for its dealings with customers, I have witnessed firsthand the implications of ethics in the truck stop industry. Federal documents released in April of 2013 accused Pilot Flying J of defrauding customers out of 10s of millions of dollars through the use of “manual” rebates.
Rebates themselves are a common form of attracting business in the truck stop industry. By offering discounts in the form of rebates for fuel purchased, truck stop companies are able to lock down the business of trucking companies. For example, Pilot Flying J could offer a monthly discount of $4,000 in the form of a monthly rebate should a particular customer fuel at least 10,000 gallons in a given month. The ethical dilemma with these particular arrangements reveals itself when truck stop companies deal with less sophisticated customers. The temptation to take advantage of less sophisticated customers is going to always be there due to the nature of the industry. It is up to strong leadership to recognize that short term gains do not outweigh the long term consequences of fraud.
We actually have a graphic designer at my work who used to work for Pilot Flying J. She left there just weeks before the scandal broke loose. She was not involved in any way, but she was very knowledgeable to the events because of all her friends that still work there.
Many of the managers told these sales people and accountants to allow this to happen. They were simply “doing their job” and “doing as they were told”. There are ethical questions to their actions. Many of them had families to provide for and cannot lose their job or would not want the scrutiny of being a whistle blower to the situation or were none the wiser to the implications. Is a lack of action just as bad as action ethically? Does negligence assume responsibility? These are important questions to ask and are worth discussing.
As for those who work there and were involved and subsequently indited, from what I understand they came forward and testified against their managers for immunity. Is this ethical either? To incriminate your employer who gave you an opportunity for your own self interest? I personally cannot say which is which, its a very dicey situation and varies so much on each individual basis. All the more example of how abstract and messy ethics is as a topic.
The company I work for has a system of values that its staff is taught. These values are customer service and product quality and sales increases. Of these three, customer service and quality come before sales increases. The way they and their employees are taught to see it, sales increases are the result of the other two. When we service our customer we look at their needs, the industry needs and asses our standpoint on meeting those needs and how to do that in the best most cohesive way possible. These two values define our operations in every department. Whether its accounting addressing a question about payment, how we package material to ensure it arrives intact, how we develop or gear product lines, or how we approach sales leads; we make decisions based on the customer.
In an organization values are of the most valuable tools to make decisions. These values must be taught through the managers and leaders downward and then they should grant empowerment. By empowering these employees, these decisions on how to meet these values determines the goodness of fit for employees, ideas for process improvement, and new services or products offered. “At Risk in many organizations is the employee’s ability to anticipate the correct reaction the organization should take on everyday decision making. Employees look to their managers to demonstrate the rules and values they abide by and expect their staff to follow. When the organization’s values do not guide decision making, chaos in the organization can ensue in the form of a lack of leadership, a loss of direction, inconsistency, poor decision making, and errors.” (Levitt-Rosenthal , 2013)
Levitt-Rosenthal, N. (2013). Ethics, values, and decision making. Frontiers Of Health Services Management, 30(1), 27-32.
I have been with the company I currently work for since March of last year, and in my time there I have noticed that this company is a very ethical company. When I graduate from LMU I will get in my own sales territory. So I will be faced with many ethical decisions on a day to day basis. Because a sales rep does not report to a “office” they have to be self starters. An ethical issue for a sales rep could be waking up and actually getting to work. Some other ethical decisions that sales reps face on a day to day would be, logging personal miles on their vehicle, taking advantage of company money, not taking care of a company vehicle. The most important thing is to take care of the customers wants and needs and customers appreciate an ethical company. for example “When customers are dissatisfied with a purchase, they appreciate it if the company promptly addresses their concerns and takes action to bring about customer satisfaction. In this case, high ethical standards means standing by the promises that were made, spoken or implied, when the customer made a purchase.” Bottom line, take care of the customer, in the right way, and they will take care of you.
Retrieved from website:http://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/ethics-contribute-customer-satisfaction-17572.html
From what I have observed, with most companies the magic word is “liability” and this is the primary motivation for seeking methods of encouraging the use of good ethical practices among employees. Usually when something occurs in a particular organization that is the result of practices that do not comply with good ethical values it results in something that the company is liable for and results in a loss somehow for the organization. This is something that most modern day companies have become heavily aware of and, as a result, implement policies that will highly discourage practices of unethical behavior among its employees. What these policies typically do is allow the company to separate itself from the responsibility and avoid legal consequences of unethical acts that employees may commit within the organization. These policies can be effective at discouraging unethical behavior to some extent, but in most cases if the employees are motivated more by what they perceive as what is the overall goal of the organization and how achieving that goal can benefit them, then employees will continually find ways to commit unethical behavior without reaping consequences, and in most cases if it is found that this behavior somehow benefits the organization, then authority figures within the organization will continue to find ways to accomodate it instead of discourage it.
In the spring of 2011, a major DOE contract was awarded to a portion of my company. Since I’m not directly connected to their business operations there is nothing I can do in my routine day to day functions that would foster new business between vendors I purchase from and this other company. However, a couple of my vendors tried giving me free items and claiming them to be trial products. They were pouring it on heavy in efforts that I could help them in getting a piece of the pie from the new company that was awarded the large DOE contract. Not only did I have to ensure them that I could not accept these products I also had to continually inform them that I did not work for this other company. If I were in a managerial position I probably would have had some influence with our new company and could have influenced them to purchase some of their products from these distributors. I had to stand firm and draw the line early as I knew it would have been hard to walk that thin line if I had accepted the first gift.
At my organization, just like at others, there is a lot of unseen verbal abuse that goes on. Sometimes, it will be right there in front of you. When situations go on whether it be between a co-worker and a supervisor, a supervisor and a manager, or whatever the case may be, I don’t like verbal abusive confrontation. I understand that things happen and they need to be talked about but these situations can be discussed privately in my opinion. In my organization is seems like people like to take issues and have verbal arguments out in the open in front of everyone to listen to. I’m just a private person and do not like to listen to other peoples conversations let alone their arguments. I like to mind my own business and keep to myself. I feel like this is one of the best ways of a decision making process. Deciding to keep to yourself and only speak your opinion when asked because a lot of people speak when their opinion is not wanted which can sometimes start the argument that could have been avoided.
Your post reminded me of a place I used to work. One of the owners was very loud and brash and did not think twice about calling someone out in the office publically. This verbal abuse was often very personal, and even misogynistic and racist.
The climate around the office was very negative. There was a lot of gossip and rumors, and quite a bit of backstabbing activity. Departments did not communicate well and would tend to pass the blame for mistakes on to others. Most employees would not take ownership of an issue regardless of fault.
This had an impact on our clients. We were not sought after for our customer service, but rather as a place of last resort for the type of business we dealt with.
I tried to do the best I could while I was there. I was able to keep a loyal client base due to my willingness to solve problems. I kept a positive attitude as much as possible. Not being an owner or in management there was only so much I could do, so I found new opportunities. I was not the only quality employee to leave due to the environment.
Ethical behavior and treatment has to happen at all levels to have a positive impact on an organization (Neubert, Wu, & Roberts, 2013). If there is a weak link in one area, it can begin to affect others in a negative way.
Neubert, M. J., Wu, C., & Roberts, J. A. (2013). The Influence of Ethical Leadership and Regulatory Focus on Employee Outcomes. Business Ethics Quarterly, 23(2), 269-296. doi:10.5840/beq201323217
Shane, I totally agree with you. Conflicts between employees should be handled in a private setting. A lot of times dealing with personal issues in a public area of an office or where other people can hear in a workplace causes more issues than the original one. For example, two employees could have a small conflict. If they start arguing in front of another employee, that third employee is likely to join in the argument and take a side, which, in turn, causes more conflict. Then, you have three people at odds with each other, when the original two employees could have likely talked out their issues and had them resolved without involving anyone else.
First of all thank you Ms. Chapman for presenting to our class, it was a pleasure to see a woman in business rise to the ranks and give us some height to the ceiling for the future of the rest of us business woman to follow you. I agree that Denso is a great leader in strides in ethics and dynamics in the Business world both stateside and around the world. Having worked at Denso before, I understand the standards that they expect from their employees and what the quantity that they need to put out to compete with the competitors in the business. In engaging and empowering ethical employees Denso definetly strives to do this from the hiring process, training, and online and continual with the Kaizen training monthly. In the Kaizen training and competition the teams strive to find areas that can assist the line in produce a better time, efficiency, and improve costs for the company as a whole. This alone allows the team work together and then allows the team to be recognized in the plant and then compete in the United States and then Internationally. Great job again for your presentation, keep moving strides onward and upward.
CHAKRAVORTY, S. S., & FRANZA, R. M. (2012). KAIZEN BLITZ. Industrial Engineer: IE, 44(4), 28-33.
Making ethical decisions in a professional setting is not always the easiest task. In my last job, I noticed some ethical issues with some decisions that were made. The organization decided to perform pollution tests on equipment that was being maintained. The problem was that the tests were lengthy, which caused problems with man-hours being used. Also, the tests were not required by law in that particular state. The result was that certain technicians were taking short cuts that defeated the tests in order to meet time requirements. The organization wanted to be ethical, but because they were unrealistic with time requirements, it forced employees into an ethical dilemma. Dennis Collins claims that, “ethical dilemmas arise because situations are ambiguous” (2012, p. 106). From what I witnesses this is true. About half of the technicians were okay with taking short cuts and the other half did not.
Collins, D. (2012). Business ethics: How to design and manage ethical organizations. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons.
As the Office Manager at my previous job, I was responsible for the day-to-day activities of the business and overseeing on and off-site contractors and employees. Several of our employees were working from home and were sending and receiving their work/assignments via email without any face-to-face interactions with my bosses or me. Upon receiving their timesheets (again, via email), I started noticing that assignments were taking unusually long to complete. Once I started noticing that, before I would send a new assignment, I would estimate how long it would take to complete and compare it to time the employee sent in at the end of the pay period. When it was significantly over the estimated time, I would question the employee directly (or sometimes delegate it to my boss to handle) to resolve the discrepancy. A couple of times the employee was able to explain why it took longer, but there were several times where the employee simply was padding their timesheet.
The problem is finding that balance between profit, and ethical obligations. There are laws to dictate certain industries for a reason, and it is widely known which industries happen to bend these rules here and there. The oil industry is an obvious example of an industry that is totally out of balance. You cannot “google” an oil company and find a clean rap sheet. Profitability totally drives all thought process within the industry. Ethical boundaries are bent and broken on a daily basis. It just so happens Oil is one of the most profitable endeavors one can enter. America has a notion that many oil men are evil simply because of what they do. While that title may be appropriate in some cases, it is simply a sweeping generalization of the industry in general. In my opinion if customers had the option they would stop dealing with oil companies in total. Unfortunately, that technology is not widespread so the oil industry has not seen the ill-effects of unethical behavior.
Ethical decisions face each of us routinely, and hopefully, most are steering down the right path. In healthcare, privacy ethics are an everyday issue, and becoming more complex as our society has become increasingly digitized. Love (2011) states, “Privacy is one of the most important, if not the most important, standards in the health care field. Privacy has been the primary professional code since the time of Hippocrates.” (pg.16).
The issue of patient privacy would seem to be cut and dry.
In our organization, the issue of patient privacy is taken seriously. According to Love (2011), all organizations should employ a compliance officer responsible for seeing that employees are following policies and procedures that maintain patient privacy. (pg. 24). While compliance monitoring is important, each employee must make the ethical decision to do the right thing regarding patient medical records. The healthcare industry has made great strides in this area over the years through education and training, but it will be an ever-evolving process as information becomes increasingly difficult to protect.
Love, V. D. (2011). Privacy ethics in health care. Journal of Health Care Compliance, July, August, 15-57.