Communities of Practice and Organizational Development for Ethics and Values

Communities of Practice and Organizational Development for Ethics and Values

Jim Grieves (University of Hull, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-556-6.ch011
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Abstract

Ethics is the study of moral issues and choices. In organizations, such a study inevitably involves consideration of decision-making practices and interpersonal relationships. This in turn may require the investigation of complex combinations of influences which include personality characteristics, values, and moral principles as well as organizational mechanisms and the cultural climate that rewards and reinforces ethical or unethical behavioral practices. Organizations ignore ethical issues at their peril as we know from recent examples of: • past claims of brutality, poor wages, and 15-hour days in the Asian sweatshops run by Adidas, Nike and GAP, • banks that rate their customers by the size of their accounts, • the race for commercial control by private firms, universities, and charities claiming exclusive development rights over natural processes in the human body and patents sought by organizations, overwhelmingly from rich countries, on hundreds of thousands of animal and plant genes, including those in staple crops such as rice and wheat, • a lack of people management skills and supervision which was said to be responsible for the falsification of some important quality control data of an experimental mixed plutonium and uranium fuel at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing scandal which led to cancelled orders and the resignation of its chief executive. We can all think of other examples that have hit the headlines to indicate that modern business management must recognize its responsibility to provide an ethical framework to guide action. This is the case in respect to human resources policy, health and safety policy, marketing policy, operations management, and environmental management. Ethical policymaking has become the watchword for both national and local government. Ethics is now taught in the police force in order to be proactive and combat discrimination. Concern is now expressed in all forms of decision making from genetic modification of foods and the patenting of human organs to the ethical decisions of pharmaceutical companies or the marketing dilemmas of global corporations. Despite these developments, we continue to find many examples of decision makers making bad ethical decisions and people who blow the whistle on many of those actions. On the positive side, we have seen how so called green organizations have proved that ethics and profit are not incompatible goals.

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