Essay in Organisational Communication

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1. Unethical organisational behaviour has become a recurring theme in corporate life. How can organisations understand and address this trend? Incorporate a discussion on organisational rhetoric and corporate responsibility in your answer?


In spite of the trend for organisations to adhere to corporate social responsibility, unethical behaviour remains a continual feature of the modern day workplace. Unethical behaviour is an important topic for consideration as suggested by Crane & Matten (2004, pp.13), whereby "business malpractices have the potential to inflict enormous harm on individuals, on communities and on the environment". This essay analyses the foundation for the continued occurrence of ethical infractions within the organisation and how these occurrences can be understood and countered by management. The essay will also incorporate a discussion on organisational rhetoric and corporate responsibility within the workplace. To understand the true meaning of corporate responsibility, there must first be an understanding of how organisations incorporate ethical behaviour throughout all levels.


The ethical debate has become an important issue for modern organisations as they face the inherent conflicts between the goals of profit maximisation and social responsibility, Vickers (2005, pp. 26-32). Ethics have been described as a set of moral principles or values of people or society, which informs them of what is good and bad, right and wrong, and which influence how people act and behave. Petrick and Quinn (1997, pp. 89) suggest that ethics is the study of individual and collective moral awareness, judgement, character and conduct, and argue it involves taking one step back in order to reflect on these underlying principles, decisions and problems. Ethics can also be described as a set of standards of behaviour which must be applied to a particular profession, Francis (2000, pp. 276).

Management within an organisation can conceptualise the meaning and application of ethics within the workplace, however, there are many ethical dilemmas that may arise as a result. These include sensitive issues arising during recruitment, hiring, training, compensation, promotion, job assignment, job classification, counselling, rehabilitation, substance abuse monitoring, discipline,benefits, terminations or layoffs, or retirement, Danley, Harrick, Schaefer, Strickland, & Sullivan (1996, pp. 273-285). They must also deal with issues associated with affirmative action, health and safety, and harassment (Danley et al. 1996).

Organisations must also contend with ethical dilemmas including favouritism in employment decisions, inconsistency in pay and discipline, sexual harassment, sex and race discrimination, and breaches of confidentiality (SHRM/CCH 1991). In dealing with these issues, management can make decisions within their own interests, those of the organisation and decisions that they believe are inherently ‘ethical'.

The global business community is abounding with examples of unethical practices, which have resulted in corporate collapses of organisations such as Enron, Worldcom, and Onetel in Australia. Wiley's (1998, pp. 147-161) research found that management can play distinct roles in ethical situations, which include advisory, monitory, educator, advocate, investigative, questioning, organisational and finally modelling type roles. Taking on these roles and communicating them effectively may have played a part in preventing such collapses. However, for management to be credible to take on these ethical roles within organisations, they must make decisions in an ethical way.

Unethical behaviour can be minimised within the organisation by instituting a code of ethics whereby all employees from higher level management down abide from. A code of ethics is concerned with what is good and bad and right and wrong in the organisation's decision-making, and...
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