Business Ethics

influence over personal norms. When an organization clearly establishes norms of behavior, the employees will tend to work towards fulfilling these norms. In organizations where norms are not clearly established, employees are more likely to use their own personal norms as guidance. It has also been found that when employees believe the organization’s norms are similar to their own, they have a higher commitment to the organization (Valentine & Barnett, 2003).

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Organizational norms hold this influence because of the human tendency towards conformity. Each worker, despite having a personal set of norms to which they would otherwise adhere, also wishes to fit into their surroundings. This means conforming to the norms as set by the other workers. The organization, therefore, has the ability to influence this group norm by setting standards to which the workers adhere. This approach is generally only successful when senior management demonstrates commitment to these standards as well. It is also important for the organization to communicate these standards well. Poor communication can result in inadequate dissemination of the standards. Once standards are established, they will influence norms in two ways. The first is that they workers within the company will gravitate towards those standards out of the instinct for conformity. The second is that as the company’s standards become understood in the economy in general, the company is more likely to attract candidates that already adhere to these standards.

The underlying theory behind this is the ethical climate theory. The ethical climate is the “set of norms and conventions that are seen by organizational actors to exist within the structure and procedures of the organization” (Martin & Cullen, 2007). The climate is the “perception of what constitutes right behavior” (Ibid). The climate can only arise when the group has developed the norms. These expected behaviors then guide the actions of each actor within the group, as the actor seeks to conform to the group norms. These norms influence the individual, in concert with other norms to which the individual is exposed. An organization therefore cannot exert perfect influence over personal norms and morality. The impact of organizational norms, however, is to guide personal norms towards those contained in the ethical climate. The extent to which this occurs will depend on the strength of the organizational norms, the commitment of the individual to the organization and the strength of the other norms and morals to which the individual is exposed. Ethical climate theory is closely related to differential association. The ethical climate, therefore, is the absence of association with those who have different morals, leading then to an absence of moral and ethical lapses on the part of the employee.

2. At this plant, the prevailing theory of criminology would be Institutional Anomie. This theory derives from the idea that crime occurs as a result of institutional imbalance. In this case, the workers at the factory feel that they are overworked and underpaid. They also feel that the plant’s owners are rich. This causes the anomie — the workers feel that there is an imbalance of wealth and of the work/reward equation. As a consequence, theft is justified.

The workers at the plant have adopted the ethical theory of . Their actions are driven by outcomes, but in this case they are focused on (Warburton, 1999). They believe that management is taking advantage of the workers, which is a negative outcome. Justification of theft is done to “put things right,” which is to say to minimize the negative. The act itself is irrelevant, as long as the injustice is moderated and the damage done to the employees is ameliorated.

Kant would not favor the Kenneth’s actions and attitudes. Kant was a proponent of deontological ethics, so his view was that the moral rightness of actions is determined by their nature. Kenneth engaged in theft. He did so because he believed that he was righting an injustice. Kant, however, would argue that if theft is wrong, then it is always wrong. The ends do not justify the means. Even if the situation of the workers is unjust and full of abuse, Kant would argue that theft remains wrong no matter whether it rights another wrong, or if the owners of the factory can bear the loss.

3. Professional codes are put in place by industry organizations in order to guide the behavior of their members. The codes provide definitions and guidance with respect to right or wrong behavior. In some cases, these codes also include provisions for the discipline of members that do not adhere to the conditions of the code. The codes also serve another purpose is that they communicate to the public the ethics and morals to which the members of the organization are expected to adhere.

Professional codes have the benefit of guiding behavior, which in concert with the communication raises the standard of morals, ethics and behavior among the group members. The criminological theory of social disorganization, for example, postulates that criminal behavior can derive from a lack of social norms (Cullen & Agnew, 2002). The professional codes then provide the structure required to prevent this.

The industry also gains competitive advantage from the establishment of professional codes. The public is likely to feel greater confidence in dealing with members of a group with a professional code. This is because the presence of the code will help to guide the member’s behavior towards that norm. While this does not offer a guarantee of adherence, it does increase the incidence of adherence. This builds confidence among the public with respect to the organization.

Confidence is also built among the legislative body as well. Professional organizations can therefore deflect scrutiny of regulators by implementing professional codes. The code is part of the institution of regulation that the professional organization uses to regulate the norms and behaviors of its members. Without such guidance, it can be expected that criminality would increase. A result of this is that the organization would inevitably find itself subject to greater regulatory scrutiny. By deflecting this scrutiny, the organization is better able to determine for itself the codes to which it wants to adhere. Having ethics and rules imposed from the outside by regulators would likely serve the interests of the public or of the regulators more than it would serve the interests of the professional organization.

Such codes do, however, have limitations. They lack the bite of the law, except in cases where one’s ability to conduct business is tied to their membership in the organization (the legal profession, for example). Sanctions from a professional organization may not be a sufficient deterrent because they are potentially not as strong as sanction from governmental bodies.

Professional codes are also limited by the degree to which the individual must interact with other members of the professional organization. In many such professions, interaction is limited. The codes work in terms of guiding behavior mainly in the context of broader social interaction. For organizations whose members work independently, such interaction may be limited. This in turn limits the effectiveness of the code itself.

Lastly, the codes are limited because they are written by the organization for its own members. This fails to serve the interests of the public or other stakeholders. The impact of this is relative to the power of those stakeholders, but ultimately a professional code is limited by the degree to which the writers of the code put the interests of the stakeholders above their own interests.

Works Cited:

Valentine, Sean & Barnett, Tim. (2003). , and organizational commitment. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from

Martin, Kelly & Cullen, John. (2007). Continuities and extensions of ethical climate theory: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Business Ethics. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from

Cullen, F.T. & Agnew, R. (2002). Criminological Theory: Past to Present. Adapted for and retrieved on June 25, 2009 from

Warburton, Nigel. (1999). Philosophy. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from

Kay, Charles D. (1997). Notes on Deontology. Wofford. Retrieved June 25, 2009 from