Some professions have ethical codes of conduct. For instance, social workers are guided by the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. However, other professions do not have such definite codes, and that increases incidences of ethical problems. It is usually up to the people in a given situation to decide what is right or wrong. There are many headlines concerning ethical issues in workplaces in the U.S, such as those concerning discrimination and harassment.
Two years ago, I worked at a car dealership for two weeks. I had found a job posting for an assistant salesperson at the company and applied for the position. At that time, I had no job, and because of my love for cars, I applied for the job. I would later qualify during an interview, and the manager instructed me to follow the lead of a senior salesperson. There were few details in the contract and nothing regarding my roles and duties as an assistant salesperson. Also, I quickly noted that most employees were not focused and had no clear sales service approach. As such, there were multiple incidences of communication breakdown, blames, and employee conflicts. On my third week at work, my senior sales partner failed to close a big sale; he blamed me for not supporting him and incited the manager to fire me. That is how I lost my position within three weeks.
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This incident is a sample of toxic workplace cultures, which challenge ethical business operations. While it made me angry, it is only recently that I can view the incidence from an ethical perspective after taking this course. The company had arguably unethical leadership, and my layoff was entirely unethical. Their lack of clear workplace policies made the company values ambiguous and created a loophole for immoral interpersonal relationships. This is a result of unethical corporate governance, which did not care how business operations are administered. The consequence of such governance is a lack of commitment and satisfaction from employees and loss of investors’ loyalty. In this case, my experience did not bear any significant professional development since most time was spent dealing with blames and conflicting goals. Besides, I was not given a chance – as a subordinate to explain my situation, which led to questionable employment termination.
The only thing I find acceptable is that the manager addressed the poor work performance. This is important because it fosters trustworthiness, promotes employee development, appraises reward systems, and enables straightforward conflict management (Osborne & Hammoud, 2017). As such, the manager had to deal with poor performance in some ways. However, his approach was arguably incompetent since it was not strategic or rational. In decision-making, it is important to consider both the impact of normative and descriptive components of a situation. In this case, the manager disregarded my individual factors that could have saved the company from future mistakes.
Toxic workplaces are common in the U.S labor market. A 2016 study has shown that about 80% of undergraduates experience workplace toxicity in all states (Richardson et al., 2016). According to an article by the Harvard Business Review, toxic workplaces are on the rise, where employees are mistreated and bullied or abused by their supervisors (Priesemuth, 2020). This is mostly caused by unclear policies and the desire to create workplace cultural fits. Such workplaces suit only their cultural fits and are often immune to critics or whistleblowers. Unfortunately, I did not find any guidance for the organization to approach such toxic situations. The manager himself seemed focused only on the organization’s performance and pushed employees beyond their limits.
I would recommend the organization consider the implications of toxic workplace culture and ensure all operations are ethically acceptable. Such cultures harm a business due to the adverse impacts of conflicts, loss of loyal customers and investors, and poor employee retention. On the other hand, it violates the moral philosophies of the labor market. Beyond coercion, businesses should advocate for justice and appraise legitimate and acceptable social norms. A specific recommendation would be to draft policies and company laws that guide business operations and conflict resolution. As such, the company will be honoring the moral philosophy – deontology, and leveraging its advantages. Deontology creates an employment schema that is fair and consistent, avoids contradiction, and insists on doing what is morally right.
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So far, I have learned that managing ethical challenges is not only about solving dilemmas. This has been my thought until taking this course. Ethical issues are multidimensional, and as such, require a strategic approach. Successful ethical challenge management must understand all the ethical risks involved and devise a framework for ethical decision making. Besides, ethical issues are different regarding their intensity and complexity. This arises from the differences between all people as a result of their individuality. Hence, leaders ought to understand these differences, implement ethical principles and bring everyone into consensual compliance with organizational culture.
Munter, D., & Lindblom, L. (2015). Beyond Coercion: Moral Assessment in the Labour Market. Journal Of Business Ethics, 142(1), 59-70. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2736-8
Osborne, S., & Hammoud, M. (2017). Effective Employee Engagement in the Workplace. International Journal Of Applied Management And Technology, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.5590/ijamt.2017.16.1.04
Priesemuth, M. (2020). Time’s Up for Toxic Workplaces. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 12 February 2021, from https://hbr.org/2020/06/times-up-for-toxic-workplaces.
Richardson, R., Hall, R., & Joiner, S. (2016). Workplace bullying in the United States: An analysis of state court cases. Cogent Business & Management, 3(1), 1256594. https://doi.org/10.1080/23311975.2016.1256594