Ethics in Hrm

Topics: Ethics, Business ethics, Corporate social responsibility Pages: 21 (5823 words) Published: April 21, 2011
Ethics and
Human Resource
By Amanda Rose
Chapter outline
Standards, values, morals and ethics have become increasingly complex in a postmodern society where absolutes have given way to tolerance and ambiguity. This particularly affects managers in HR, where decisions will affect people’s jobs and their future employment. This chapter explores some of the ethical dilemmas encountered in the workplace, discussing ethical behaviour and values that relate to HR. It looks at relevant ethical tools, such as utilitarianism and relativism in order to examine current practices in the workplace and their links to corporate social responsibility.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:
u Critically explore and evaluate the ethical nature of human resource management; u Identify and define current ethical and moral issues confronting HR managers; u Compare, contrast and critically appraise a range of approaches to ethical analysis; u Critically appraise the relevance and usefulness of philosophical analysis to HR practice. Introduction

Human Resource Management is a business function that is concerned with managing relations between groups of people in their capacity as employees, employers and managers. Inevitably, this process may raise questions about what the respective responsibilities and rights of each party are in this relationship, and about what constitutes fair treatment. These questions are ethical in nature, and this chapter will focus on debates about the ethical basis of human resource management.

EHR_C02.qxd 6/6/07 3:55 PM Page 27
The ethical nature of HRM
‘All HR practices have an ethical foundation. HR deals with the practical consequences of human behaviour’.
(Johnson, 2003)
‘The entire concept of HRM is devoid of morality.’
(Hart, 1993: 29)
Despite these moral appreciations of human resource management (HRM), there is a strong tradition in business that insists that business should not be concerned with ethics. As Milton Friedman, a vociferous proponent of this position, has put it:‘The social responsibility of business is to its shareholders. . . . The business of business is business’ (1970).

The core concern of business – proponents of the market economy argue – is in attempting to secure the best possible return on any investment. Any dilution of this focus will lead to the corruption of what is a finely balanced system. Businesses that seek to be ‘ethical’ as well as profitable will probably fail economically, following which the whole community may suffer. Rather, let the invisible hand guide the market and all will prosper. Like some evolutionary force, the best will always survive. Wealth will trickle down from successful enterprises, and humanity will be best served. Any constraint on the freedoms of the market – be they motivated by ethical angst or vote-seeking government policy – will just mess everything up. Notwithstanding the appeal of this position, a critique of business practice has continued to accumulate and assert itself, and to challenge the notion that business and morality have no meeting point. Concern has surfaced from a variety of sources: from consumer groups, political groups, religious and charitable organisations. Entrepreneurs (for example, Anita Roddick of The Body Shop (2000), academics and researchers (Winstanley and Woodall, 2000; Greenwood, 2002) and management professionals (Brown, 2003) have all expressed the view that standards of behaviour within business need to be evaluated, and improved.

A case can be made that negative consequences flow from poor ethical standards: u While short-term goals may be achieved through the cut-throat tactics of free market principles, in the long run business will survive better if good standards of conduct are maintained;

u Ethical business creates a positive environment in which to buy and sell, as corruption, poverty and lack of respect for the environment generate...

References: Brown, D. (2003). From Cinderella to CSR, People
Management, Vol
CIPD (2003). A Guide to Corporate Social
Responsibility, July.
Crowe, R. (2002). No Scruples, London: Spiro
Freeman, R.E. (1998). A stakeholder theory of the
modern corporation, in Hartman L.P
Friedman, M. (1970). The social responsibility of
business is to increase its profits, New York
Goodpaster, K.E. (1984). Ethics in Management,
Boston: Harvard Business Books.
Greenwood, M.R. (2002). Ethics and HRM: a
review and conceptual analysis, Journal
Hart, T.J. (1993). Human resource management:
time to exercise the militant tendency,
Heart of the City (2002). Corporate social
responsibility – City firms lead the way, at:
Johnson, R. (2003). HR must embrace ethics,
People Management, Vol
Jones, T.M. (1995). Instrumental stakeholder
theory: a synthesis of ethics and economics,
Klein, N. (2000). No Logo, Hammersmith:
Macintyre, A. (1981). After Virtue, London:
Medawar, C. (1978). The Social Audit Consumer
Handbook, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Roddick, A. (2000). Business as Usual. The
Triumph of Anita Roddick: The Body Shop,
Storey, J. (1993). The take-up of human resource
management by mainstream companies,
Weiss, J.W. (1994). Business Ethics: A Managerial
Stakeholder Approach, Belmont, CA:
Winstanley, D. and Woodall, J. (1996). Business
ethics and human resource management,
Winstanley, D. and Woodall, J. (eds.) (2000).
Greenwood, M.R. (2002). Ethics and HRM: a
review and conceptual analysis, Journal of
Legge, K. (2000).
Werther, W.B. and Chandler, D. (2006). Strategic
Corporate Social Responsibility Stakeholders in
Winstanley, D. and Woodall, J. (1996). Business
ethics and human resource Management,
Work Foundation (2002). Corporate Social
Responsibility: Managing Best Practice,
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • ethics Essay
  • Ethics Essay
  • Ethics in Hrm Essay
  • Essay about Hrm and Ethics
  • ethics of Essay
  • Ethics Essay
  • Ethics Essay
  • Ethics Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free