3. Are the actions of people in the workplace a consequence of individual or organisational characteristics? What would promote ethical behavior at work?
Organisations are defined as congregations of people who are in an interdependent and collaborative relationship to accomplish common goals or objectives (Mcshane, Olekalns & Travaglione 2010). From ancient to modern times, there has been an ongoing need for a guiding beacon on which these organisations can rely on to discern what is morally decent or right. Emerging from this need is the study of ethics. According to Preston (2007), ethics does not have a singular meaning. Ethics can be referred to as a ‘moral philosophy’ which examines an individual’s or a culture’s values and their corresponding rationalisations. Ethics can also be the moral principles that a person considers when making decisions and relates to the moral obligation, responsibility and social justice of all parties involved in the decision making process (Morf, Schumacher & Vitell 1999). In this paper, I will be investigating a few case studies related to the study of ethics with the aim to discuss whether it is the individual or the organisation that influences the choices and subsequent actions of people at the workplace. In the workplace, ethical behaviour is an expected requirement at all times. However, Lewis (1985) states that not everyone will have the same understanding of what is morally right or wrong, good or bad, ethical or unethical. To resolve the issue of ambiguity, many organisations or companies come up with their own Code of Ethics as a guide for employees. Take for example the case study of F J Benjamin Holdings Ltd, which is a brand building and managing company listed on the Singapore Exchange. In its Code of Ethics, it is stated that every director and employee has the responsibility to understand and comply with the code of conduct and that functional managers should ensure their subordinates do the same (F J Benjamin Corporate Code of Ethics). F J Benjamin’s Regional Compliance and Internal Audit department, which reports directly to its independent directors, performs the monitoring and enforcement to ensure compliance by its employees. Through rigorous enforcement of its Code of Ethics, F J Benjamin ensures that its every employee is an active participant in promoting and adhering to ethical conduct. F J Benjamin’s requires each and every employee, regardless of status, to undertake the personal responsibility to understand the Code of Ethics and that all managers must ensure their subordinates also achieve the same. In this case study, it can be clearly seen that F J Benjamin has chosen to go in the direction of positive and proactive organisational management through setting high ethical standards and influencing the actions of its people at the workplace, i.e. employees. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the case study of the National Kidney Foundation Singapore (NKF). Established in 1969 by Doctor Khoon Oon Teik, NKF is a Singaporean voluntary welfare organisation carrying out kidney dialysis and rehabilitation programmes for kidney failure patients. NKF relies on charity donations to carry out its day to day operations. At its peak, NKF’s annual turnover amounted around S$116 million, all of which came from charity donations. On July 2005, a scandal broke out from within NKF when the organisation was featured in a Straits Times article for its commercially-driven fund raising practices and alleged lavish spending by its then CEO, TT Durai (Straits Times 2004). Subsequent investigations had revealed that Durai had been indulging in unnecessary luxuries using funds meant for patient care. An auditor’s report by KPMG also uncovered that in 2003, only ten cents out of every donated dollar went to patient care instead of fifty-two cents out of every donated dollar as previously claimed by NKF. Tan (2007) has explicitly listed out ten fatal flaws which had...
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