How far will your conscience go?

3 Feb 2017

I was listening to a radio programme this week where they were debating whether or not there was such a thing as an ethical egg. One of the contributors was arguing that there is no such thing. He described what free range meant in reality. I'll spare you the detail, but it was very uncomfortable to listen to what egg producers can do to hens under the free range label. That got me thinking - is there such a thing as an ethical manager? Can management be ethical and in particular are there ethics in human resource management (HRM, a term I always have difficulty with). What if your boss asked you to do something unethical, that you knew wasn't right. What would you do ? Pretty much everyone has a boss. Do you do the right thing and refuse to undertake the unethical work ? If you do refuse will there be implications for you? No promotion , less training, poor performance assessments, less money ? Does it matter if it's a big issue or not ? If it's not a big deal do you just do it ? What if it is a big deal ? Could you resign over a matter of principle with a mortgage to pay , credit card debts and school fees on the way ? What would the implications be for re-employment elsewhere. Would you be viewed as lacking in corporate loyalty ?

 

The CIPD UK have Ethical Standards and Integrity as part of their Code of Professional Conduct. That is to be welcomed. But how effective is it ? The language is about establishing business relationships based on confidence... , having professional integrity and honesty , and safeguarding commercially sensitive data and not using it for personal advantage or the detriment of others. Really is this the best we can do ? I don't get, for example, how being asked to be mindful of the distinction between acting in a personal or professional capacity, adds any value.

 

What do the numbers say ? CIPD say they have 90,000 members in the UK and 140,000 world wide. Between July 2012 and June 2016 i.e. four years, they had 37 complaints which resulted in 13 hearings. If a decision is taken not to take an allegation forward, the outcome is not published. What does this tell us ?

 

So the bottom line is what ? Bad things happen to employees when people accept the unethical or inappropriate culture and behaviour of their superiors. We cannot allow ourselves to become compliant with poor behaviour. I came across a quote - not sure now who from - " in matters of style blow with the wind, on matters of principle be solid as a rock". My experience is that there have been times I have not myself followed this advice because I was concerned about the consequences. I am now firmly of the view that with bravery the bullies can be beaten.

 

So my story here started with eggs. Those of you of a certain vintage will remember the marketing phrase " go to work on an egg".  That which we accept sets the standard. Go to work ethically and do the right thing. Good luck you won't be alone ! 

 

Alan

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