Imagine that it's your responsibility to select an ethics officer for your organization. What qualities, background, and experience would you look for? Why? Would you ever be interested in such a position? Why or why not?
An ethics officer plays a significant role for an organization. In the selection of the right ethics officer for my organization, I would have to consider several major factors such as the personal qualities, background and experience. First of all, the ethics officer should posses the following qualities: honesty, truthfulness, integrity, fairness, accuracy, and significance of moral values. These qualities are the basic ingredients that should be searched thoroughly in the ethics officer during the selection process.
The background of the ethics officer should be related to any field such as business, medicine, engineering, sociology, psychology or armed forces, but it should be kept in mind that the ethics officer belongs to a specialized field with sound educational background. The ethics officer with a law degree would be preferable because the rule of law is the key to achieve justice and ethics in any place. The age criteria should be based upon the experience level. Employees prefer older and mature people when they have ethical issues and feel more comfortable with an older person as an ethics officer. It is human tendency to rely upon the seniors for resolving their ethical issues. The ethics officer should have a minimum of seven years experience in an organization where he/she had to deal with ethical issues and ensure that business ethics are being followed. he/she should have a keener sense to observe things and people so that ethics are followed strictly in an organization.
Several alarming ethical issues can erupt which need to be resolved by the ethics officer such as the employment practices or organizational (internal) cultures which are at times unfair and biased. In the global markets, it is important to have fair employment practices with no discrimination of gender, race, color or nationality. The ethics officer could be either within the organization or from outside the organization. In any case, it is highly important to create credibility and reliability of employees in the organization. There are factors that could bar an insider from the job of ethics which are mistrust, weak organizational culture, corruption, weak governance, and one-way (top-down) communication channels in an organization.
2. Should the Ethics Officer report to the company's chief executive officer, the legal department, human resources office or the audit department? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
The ethics officer should report to the legal department as it is the most important department related with the laws and rules of an organization. It is important to understand that ethics is not concerned with one department only; it is the core of the whole organization and needs to be integrated within all the departments of the organization. Most importantly, the top level management needs to be informed about the ethical conflicts arising in the organization as their job is to give senior advice and strategic vision to the organization. The approach of the ethics officer should be based on conflict resolution through prevention and immediate action. Therefore, the legal department which has the mission to make the organization abide by the state laws, business laws and the organization's own internal policies and ethics. The ethics officer needs to report to the legal department on regular basis to achieve congruence and harmony. The legal department could help the ethics officer to remain up-to-date with new business laws and international laws. Thirdly, the human resource department has the mission to manage the human resource to achieve organizational efficiency and effectiveness. However, this could only be achieved through an ethical and positive organizational culture which the human resource department manages. The risk associated here is that the organization needs to ensure that ethical practices are being adopted to achieve organizational success without harming the interests of the stakeholders.
Human resource department could help the ethics officer in building positive relationships with all the stake holders and maintain an ethical environment though ethical practices. Lastly, the audit department has the mission to deal with the financial statements of the organization to ensure that they are correct without misleading information and are up-to-date. Therefore, here business ethics again play a significant role. The risk associated with raising an issue in this department is that it can affect the organization's image in the financial markets. The audit department could help the ethics officer in keeping a check on all the financial statements and ensure that the accountants remain highly ethical.
3. Think about an organization where you've worked. What kinds of ethical dilemmas are unique to that organization? To that industry? What might be the best way to prepare employees to deal with those issues?
I have worked in an educational institute belonging to the education private sector. This industry is regulated by Higher education commission which is under the government. There are several ethical dilemmas that have occurred in this organization. Whether it is a small or large organization, ethical dilemmas arise as human beings often misuse their freedom and power. Similarly in this organization, providing quality education is the top most priority. The stakeholders involved in the organization were mainly students, parents, teachers and the entire management/departments. The major ethical dilemmas were regarding the pay level and workload. The human resource was being exploited to some extent in terms of no pay for extra hours and extra workload. This is the basic problem that occurs in many organizations related to employer/employee ethics. In addition to this, there were no proper systems of leaves which caused deduction in pays and caused employees dissatisfaction. Moreover, employees were hired and fired on no proper legal documents. There was no formal contract and agreement which is the biggest ethical issue of an organization. The best way to deal with these issues by the employees is to inform the organization top management so that proper action could be taken. A more formal and regulated human resource management system needs to be developed to ensure business ethics. Two-way communication and then indirect pressure from outside source could be the best way to resolve these issues.
4. Which of the following exist in the organization? Mission or values statement, policy manual, code of conduct, ethics training (who conducts it), hotline? Are they consistent and credible? Discuss.
The mission of the organization is to provide quality education for long-term career growth. Mission of the organization is to give quality education and maintain a positive approach towards long-term relationships. In this organization, there is a clear policy manual, code of conduct and ethics training program. As it is an educational institute, it has ensured that all employees maintain proper code of conduct so that it gives a positive outlook to the students and their parents. As for the ethics training, it is conducted once in ages. It is not a regular and continuous approach of the organization. The ethics training is conducted by a senior HR manager in the organization. Although these policies, manuals and code of conducts are consistent and credible in theory; in practical approach they are not being followed on a regular basis. There is less check and balance which causes lapses in the ethics management in the organization. The employees in the organization are given the code of conduct when they join the organization and are insisted to read it to ensure proper code of conduct and ethics. My organization has not been following these ethical codes in actual practice and they are not regularly and continuously monitored which causes ethical problems. The hotline is where the employees and other stakeholders can give their feedback for the organization and it is being handled by the human resource. However, it is not highly responsive. There are certain issues such as delayed feedback.
5. Does senior management appear committed to ethics? How do you/they know? What could they do differently or better?
The senior management appears to be committed with ethics and is familiar with the importance of ethics in this organization. They are highly concerned about building long-term relationships and their positive image in the market. The senior management gives reference to ethical behavior frequently in the speeches and orientation sessions. It adds great importance to the proper code of conduct to be followed with ethical values as the top most priority. But the loose coordination has not greatly helped in achieving this objective. The senior management needs to develop an integrated long-term approach towards ethics management where ensuring ethical behaviors is the top most priority. The ethics training, guidance and monitoring should be highly emphasized at all organizational levels by the senior management.
6. Are leaders at all levels of the organization held accountable for their ethical conduct? If so, how? If not, why not? What would you recommend?
Leaders in the organization are from various departments which include mainly accounts, human resource, administration, research,…