Ethical Dilemmas in Contemporary Business Environment

In more general terms, ethics and the dilemmas that so often accompany them encapsulate different actions that individuals might engage in a business environment, but also boils down to a sense of communal distinction between right and wrong. In a business context, ethics involve an in-depth look into proper practices and policies with particular focus on potentially contentious issues such as insider trading, bribery, fiduciary responsibility and cooperate social responsibility. Clear laws govern business ethics and, in other cases, provide a basic framework that enterprises may decide to follow for them to gain full public acceptance. Experts contend that the primary reason why business ethics exits are to ensure that there is a level of mutual trusts that exist between the market participants with business and consumers (which also creates an allowance for dilemmas enter the picture). It is a concept that came to be in the mid-1960s when firms became acutely aware of a steady rise in a consumer based society different from the one they previously knew. The new society was increasingly showing concern over matters involving the environment, cooperate responsibility and social causes (Ferrera et al. 45). During its practical application, it becomes the rule that governs any decision made on a day to day basis by a company in its operations, and some cases present a quandary to those who have to make them. In this essay, I will focus on the ethical dilemmas present in the business environment in the contemporary world and provide relevant examples.

Lately, a common trend in the cooperate world has been the conducting ones personal dealings on company time. It is no secret that most employees spend a huge chunk of their weekday hours at work which comes with the temptation to conduct their business while at work (Mellahi et al. 56). For instance, an employee might set up a doctor’s appointment using company lines, make phone calls during company time for their freelance enterprises or even make vacation reservations with their employers Personal Computer (PC) and internet connection. A superficial glance at this ethical dilemma seems clear. It is wrong for any employee to spend their time conducting anything that does not relate to work. The main reason is that it lowers their productivity as distractions set in as soon as they decide to focus on other activities other than the task at hand. Employers discourage any form of diversion as it directly leads to the substantial suffering of losses which then deals a blow to possible returns. Neuroscientists have also proven that multi-tasking is indeed an urban myth and the human brain can only undertake one task time. It is for this reason that many employers admonish any employee who sees it fit to use company time and resources for their activities. A deeper look into the issue reveals an ethical dilemma that many never consider. There is a gray area about conducting what an employee might consider unethical during work hours. For instance, emergencies are an everyday reality and one’s spouse, for example, might call to inform them that their child may be ill. In such situation, many may raise questions as to whether it is permissible for one to set up a doctor’s appointment in a business environment when they should be working. A rule of thumb in such a situation might require an employee to first consult with their human resource supervisor or manager on what counts, according to company standards, as actionable offenses.

Another ethical dilemma common in the business environment is when an individual takes credit for work done by others. For firms to create useful strategies in operations such as creating marketing campaigns, fine-tuning or developing new products, they often have their employees working in groups. The reasoning behind this system is to ensure that employees learn to cooperate, brainstorm and come up with innovative ways to tackle the problems that the firm might be up against in the cooperate world (Morais 44).  Working as a team is meant to foster the participation of all employees in presenting solutions while making them feel part of the company structure. What is also apparent is that rarely do all members contribute in birthing the final product. There are those who fully dedicate their time to the project or cause, while there are also those who choose to be freeloaders and in effect making a minimal contribution. A quandary presents itself in the case of a marketing team comprising of five individuals whose task is to come up with an appropriate strategy to increase the sale of products.  It soon emerges, that three out of the five members play a significant role in the project and make more contributions than the remaining two. They are always the first to report to work and are punctual during meetings that aim to deal with the task at hand. Moreover, they stay up late working and strive to come up with solutions that will enable the company to solve its issues. It is also evident that the commitment level of two inactive members in the team is questionable. The primary rationale for this stems from the little to no contribution that they make to the group and always seem to be preoccupied with other things not related to what the company expects of them. If the team successfully comes up with an approach that will benefit the company in its quest to increase profitability, a challenge presents itself regarding whether these two persons should share the overall credit when it is rather clear that they did not pull their weight towards the final product. If the rest of the group decides to single out their fellow employees and present them in a negative light, there is a high probability that it might foment resentment. The same could be said if all employees were to accept equal praise for the work done when there were those who did not participate fully in the said activity. The best way to confront such a debacle is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. All group members should receive separate tasks to complete, which would see all every member participate fully.

            Discrimination at work is prohibited, and many societies condemn it in the strongest terms possible. The main reason for this denunciation is because the business environment requires a level playing field where all workers have an equal chance to thrive and realize their goals. Gender, race, creed or ethnicity should not be put into consideration when dealing with employees and their output with the general criteria being a meritocracy (Schwartz 21). An ethical dilemma becomes apparent when a top-tier manager finds themselves in a business environment that is predominantly male.  It may be pure as a result of a chance occurrence or on the other hand, might be through design where the context in question suits male employees best. It is quite likely that there are situations where a new female employee might land in this workstation which might prove challenging to the firm. The difficulty stems from the company’s inability to conduct sensitivity training for staff, which stirs up conflict. Male employees might make inappropriate off the cuff comments which deeply troubles the employee. She decides to report to the branch manager with the expectation that he will move swiftly to see that those capabilities are dealt with immediately. The manager is nonetheless in a fix. He has to grapple with the whether he should take the initiative and move the female employee to a different position where it is unlikely that she will draw attention, which also presents a challenge. If he proceeds with his plans, many will view it as a form of gender discrimination and unethical conduct in response to the harassment complaint.

Side deals have also become a common ethical dilemma in the business sector, especially for hard-working, enterprising individuals who are out to make high financial gains. Engaging in these deals would most likely see them benefit from the transactions two-fold, which is what everyone wishes for in business. Take for example a business manager who has an employment contract that requires them to work solely for their current employer and use their expertise to attract new clients. The challenge comes when one attracts more customers that the employee can reasonably handle. An ethical dilemma is when they have to struggle with thoughts that encourage them to divert the business elsewhere to gain a generous commission or turn down excess clients. If the manager chooses to engage in the side deals, they will probably learn more than they ever have and will have an opportunity to make financial gains like never before. They will able to live their dream, and the financial muscle will enable them to have the finer things in life. Nevertheless, if they decide to go on with this particular plan and fail to inform their employer, at a minimum, they will be in breach of their ethical and contractual duties. In conducting these seemingly “illegal” transactions, they will be liable for prosecution in a court of law if discoveries establish that they broke rules that they were to uphold, face time in jail, slapped with a huge fine and most likely lose their jobs.

The rise of dilemmas in the work environment is an indication that business ethics goes beyond the simplistic view of a moral code distinguishing right from wrong. It is now clear that from its inception, it was seeking to reconcile what conglomerates must do legally versus (in most cases) ensuring that they also maintain a competitive advantage over their worthy opponents. Moreover, business ethics more often than not reflects the ideal philosophy of operations that aims to determine the fundamental purpose of the said company. So much so because legally, many countries consider these cooperate entities as persons and are therefore entitled to liabilities and rights of any other person. Modern-day ethical dilemmas put the employer and employee at an awkward position where they have to choose the right thing to do, even in situations that seem impossible to comprehend.

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