Personal morality and behavior is a key factor in business today. It has been described by many business experts as the driving principle behind businesses in the current world. This notion implies that managers and everyone need to not only focus on profit making and business expansion but also upholding good moral standards. It is in this regard that many business and professional associations have come up with guiding principles referred to as code of ethics which are aimed at harmonizing organizational and business behavior in any set up. It is clear that such documents are quite significant in giving a roadmap in defining the manner in which employees or even managers ought to conduct themselves in their daily practices. As a matter of fact, ethical behavior is essential to both private entrepreneurs and even corporate organizations (Machan, 2007). It is quite amazing that many people in business have continued to be involved in unethical practices leading to poor business performance or even ultimate collapse of companies and organizations. This is due to the fact that there are millions of people around the world who do not appreciate the need of upholding morality in a business setup. It is also possible that a section of those in business do not fully understand the difference between what is right from that which is wrong. Regardless of the situation, good ethical standards are critical in defining the performance of any business.
This paper addresses ethical issues which are more often in the business arena. One on the most important fact to note is that unethical practices are quite common among those people in power as compared to mere employees of a company or those hired to perform a given task. Mangers have been found more often than not propagating their own personal agenda and interest. This is because of the power and responsibilities they have in driving the performance of a company. For instance, a human resource manager can use his powers to decide who joins the company as an employee through manipulated interviews. As a result, the company may suffer drastically and even find itself on knees because of a mistake done by one person. Like Robert, he Human Resources Manager for a mill in a rural town that is a part of a large foreign owned multi-national cereals company, those in authority play a mega role in maintaining morality (Smithers, 1996). As a manager, one is able to set good performance through support of moral behavior and practices or purpose to fulfill personal desires through bribery and nepotism among others.
Are there any ethical issues which arise in the Trouble at Mill Case Study? Is the Human resource manager, Robert right to use his position to pursue his own personal interests? One would expect Robert to have the interests of the company at heart in order to augment its growth and performance in a competitive business world which demands integrity and good moral standards in management. Robert does not accidentally attend high profile meetings organized; this forms part of his main responsibility as the Human Resource Manager (Smithers, 1996). It is therefore expected of him to make sound decisions based on discussions and consultation from other managers before considering a conclusive decision. This is because the running of any company or business cannot solely be left to an individual regardless of his or her competence. A part from attending of corporate management meetings, Robert represents other human resource manages in such meetings. He is therefore supposed to accurately pass the information discussed to his colleagues without alterations. Does happen to Robert? Does he communicate to other managers what he is supposed to? Is Robert's reaction linked to any influence from other managers in higher authority? Failure to communicate correct and crucial information to colleagues as away of protecting individual is unethical and has to be condemned in the highest terms possible.
Robert was advised on the status of the mill in terms of its future and the plans to have it closed in a year's time since it was too old. This is a sensitive and crucial decision which has to be communicated to other managers and other concerned bodies for future planning. It is clear that the same information would be quite useful to other employees of the company in making necessary career arrangements before they are lose their jobs when the mill is shut down in a span of twelve months. However, Robert is advised not to communicate to any person including his colleagues due to the fear of the industrial action and community backlash. The corporate senior management understands the issues facing the company and has concrete reasons for the proposed closure of the mill. With this in mind it becomes quite unethical that the same management does not allow Robert, the in charge of Human Resource to communicate the same to the rest of the managers and if possible other employees of the mill who believe in the future of the mill (Smithers, 1996). This would drastically affect the future of these people at the fall of the hammer in twelve years to come due to lack of information which was available but never communicated to safeguard selfish interests.
Another ethical issue that features in the "Trouble at Mill" case study surrounds recruitment and replacement of employees. The senior management of the mill has full information that a senior HR professional vacancy was coming up. This information is very important to Robert as HR manager in order to make necessary arrangements for adverts and interviews. It becomes extremely controversial and questionable when the senior management advises Robert to apply for the same post (Smithers, 1996). Based on the crucial nature of the post, the management definitely has individual interests which they believe that that they would easily be propagated by Robert as their agent at the expense of the other employees at the mill and the entire public. One can easily confirm by the fact that the in charge of the store personnel resigned shortly after this information was confined in Robert who was being considered by the senior management as the best candidate to take up the position.
Why did the management advertise for a vacant position at the mill? Was there any need of fooling other employees and the public who had faith in the progress of the mill? From the very initial position of the senior management, the idea of holding interviews was to eliminate the possibility of anybody reading a fowl play within the management of the mill. It was a calculated move to have Robert installed in one of the most influential positions. With the nature of job, Robert was not competent enough since the person was to oversee the entire store and ensure that a sophisticated inventory system is maintained. It is also worthy noting that the job was on full-time basis and fully covered by the union (Smithers, 1996). It was the best idea to have the job advertised to the public in order to give equal opportunities to the employees and the public. But more importantly was to increase the spectrum of competent candidates from which the best person was to be chosen. Why Robert was strongly encouraged to apply for the same by the senior management?
Is it ridiculous or unethical that Robert was part of the panel which interviewed five candidates who applied and turned up for the interview? Was it fair and morally upright for him to be on the panel together with the Mill Production Manager yet he was eyeing the same position? This was absolutely wrong and unethical. The motive behind the entire process was a calculated and predetermined by the management which had personal and highly questionable interests in having Robert take the job. How then was Robert supposed to carry out the interview? Was he to consider anybody from the list of applicants?
The fact that James, one of the applicants had relevant experience and necessary skills to take up the job demonstrates another ethical issue. According to James' qualifications, there was no other person to beat him in terms experience and what the company was looking for. He had worked in the previously in two different companies, serving in the same capacity, qualifying him to take up the job. How was Robert supposed to respond to James' concerns over job security of the job the mill was offering through vacancy advertising? Would it have been ethical for him to reveal to James the expected closure of the company which was to come in a year's time? Did Robert have any information about plans to close the plant? This was an ethical dilemma since the senior management had warned Robert not to share the information with any other person including other human resource managers (Smithers, 1996). It is pretty clear that the case study portrays well rooted ethical issues which have almost every company today. These issues are costly if tamed.
Personal interests and selfishness is what makes up for many ethical issues that affect companies and business in the society. Is it wrong for a manager to act in his capacity in order to fulfill his agenda without considering the impact of the act to the rest of the society? One of the main roles of managers is to protect the interests of the company. Therefore self-centered approach of management is not an option in the journey of realizing a thriving business. This notion has always been described as by many experts as ethical egoism (Shaver, 1999). According to this theory which has received manifold discussion in history is that personal interests have to propel any business idea. The theory further explains that everybody has to put self interests, desires and fulfillment before thinking of others. Pro ethical egoism people do not consider or value the success of others but derive full satisfaction in their progress (Österberg, 1988). Although the theory has received criticism, it views the promotion of individual's own good to be within morality which has to be upheld in running our day to day roles especially in management authority. The theory supports the pursuit of 'own good' in life as away of promoting personal morality in the society.
On the other hand, Utilitarianism considers the maximization of utility for all the parties being affected by a particular decision or action. It further argues that actions taken are good only if they promote good for every person regardless of their state (Mill, 2006). It focuses on the progress of every person due to a given course of action as the basic moral principle in performing ones duties and responsibilities. This has been well defined under two brunches namely, act and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism mainly focuses on the actions taken by individuals after evaluating possible consequences that are likely to befall people. It promotes options or decisions which are aimed at generating enormous pleasure to many. On the other hand, rule utilitarianism explores the rules of action which have to be followed. According to this theory, morality and behavior is measured by rules which have to the followed universally. It further keenly evaluates the impact of a given set of rules which have to be followed in upholding ethical behavior in the society. Rule utilitarianism also supports the idea of breaking certain rules in order to generate happiness. This is common in self defense. It justifies self defense in any system but highly condemns murder (Posner, 179).
Do these two theories apply to the above Case Study in way? The decision taken by the senior management of the Mill raises more questions than answers. The management is fully aware that the Mill has to be closed in twelve months time but does not pass this information to all employees of the company. This clearly shows that the management is not considered and doesn't care about the consequences of the decision to many people who rely on the mill for employment and to the general public. This is why Robert, one of the Human Resource managers is not allowed to share the closure plan to any other person including his HR colleagues in the company. This can be directly viewed as ethical egoism being propagated by the management of the mill. The management has no feelings or concerns for the impact of the closure to the majority but keenly focuses on pleasure for the few. Since the in charge of the store is a key position in the functioning of the company, the management plots to have the position being taken by Robert, one of the managers in order to guard their good interests. To achieve this individualistic target, Robert who has been encouraged to apply for the post forms part of the interviewing panel.
On the other hand, the management of the mill does not apply utilitarianism which seeks to generate pleasure to the majority through rules and actions taken by the management. If utilitarianism was to be followed, the management would be willing to share the news with other employees of the company (Harsanyi, 115). Additionally, the recruitment of the person in charge of the store would be fair to every applicant. By having James on board, a competent and able person, the high performance of the company through maintaining of the inventory system would be a source of happiness to not only the senior management but also every employee of the company. However, the joy of the majority is not the idea and passion of the management of the company. Therefore the rules and actions taken are not for the interests of the company as a whole but for the benefit of a section of the management (Hospers, 13).
Based on the case study above, it is beyond doubt that there are ethical issues surrounding the management of the company. The mindset of the senior management has to be redirected from the drive of personal benefit to the desire of creating pleasure, happiness and success to all managers, employees of the company and the general public which rely on the mill either directly or indirectly. This can only be achieved by adopting the utilitarianism theory of management. Company employees have the right of knowing the performance of the plant and its future. It is of no use for managers to make crucial information like mill closure secret when it is important to every employee. Career recruitments and replacements have to be conducted in a fair and ethical way in order to have the best personnel in terms of experience and skills. People like James have to the given the first priority in hiring to promote company performance and future growth. This would definitely be an oasis of happiness to everybody ranging from top management to junior employees and the general public (Pojman & Fieser, 2008).
In summary, ethical issues significantly affect countless companies and organizations in the world. Although most managers and business owners lay emphasis on profit maximization and personal interests, it is of great importance to consider the success and happiness of everybody involved through fairness, good judgment and sound decision making. Happiness for all is growth for the company.
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