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There are many ways to answer this question. Part of the reason for this is due to the fact that you need to define terms like ethics. As you probably know, ethics is a huge area of study and very debated. But if you are asking about business, then there are a few things that you should keep in mind. First, with money there is great temptation to cut corners, because human nature likes money, to be honest. Second, as businesses become more and more complex, there are different ways to present data. As the public knows all too painfully, companies can manipulate their earnings or shortcomings in so many different ways. I believe this is an ethical question, because it is possible to tell no lies without ever telling the truth. The paradox is in the perspectives. These are all ethical questions.
Ethics is the study of ways of distinguishing and deciding on right and moral behavior as as distinguished from wrong and immoral behavior. The business ethics involves issues of the general policies and practices adopted by a business as a whole as well as its actions in specific situations involving ethical considerations. Business ethics is also impacted by the behaviour of the senior managers responsible for managing the business.
In taking decisions involving ethical issues a business must take in to several considerations. Among others these include:
- Identification of stakeholders of the business and their rights and responsibilities. The stakeholder generally include customers, employees, shareholder or owners, suppliers, other business partners, government and other statutory organizations, and general public.
- Importance of profit and other similar motives of the business and its managers in relation to the importance of morality, honesty and other similar values.
- The extent of responsibility of business for specific areas of responsibility to community in general. Among others it includes environmental protection, equality and fairness in dealing with people among all stake holder groups, product quality and reliability, and abetting corruption.
- Personal value system and belief of the managers and owners of the business.
- Impact of ethical behavior on short term and long term business performance and prospects.
What are the factors that influence business ethics?
A number of them come to mind.
One is current ethical and moral trends in society. After all, people who behave one way at home are not likely to be of a different stripe at work. They’re won’t be walking into the office one day a miraculously changed person. Their behavior at home will most likely be replicated on the job. That’s why best recruiting practices call for a thorough background check on all potential employees and chatting will their personal references.
Two is the personal morals and integrity of your organization’s staff and management team. For sure there will be a segment of managers and staff who tend one way or the other but the wildcard lies in the dominant office personalities and the sway that they hold over their peers. And don’t forget the other stressors such as the level of customer conflict and how that can influence staff and managers to cover up unpleasant exchanges or hide other ethical lapses.
Three is the management style of the organization’s leaders. Is it a mild-mannered group of managers who operate on group consensus or do they have an authoritarian style of leadership that demands rigorous adherence to company rules and ethical standards? If the latter, then there’s a greater chance of a stronger ethical environment up and down the organizational ladder.
Four is the type of industry you’re talking about and the clout that ethics violations have over the actions of staff and managers. If it’s a law firm, you’ll probably have more stringent ethical behavior because of the potential for disciplinary action against attorneys and staff for violating boundaries. If it’s a government lobbying firm, there will be most likely be more wiggle room given the nature of the beast. Ethical lapses are not only common in that environment, they’re almost expected.
In short, there can be many factors that influence business ethics but so much depends on the people, the industry and the social norms. Without knowledge of those facts, there are few easy answers to this question. Nevertheless, those are a few.
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