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Be balanced and dependable

In the long term, high ethical standards help employees to be seen as dependable and highly responsible.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2007 14:18 IST

Remember the scene in the film 'Corporate' where actor Harsh Chhaya, who  plays the role of a senior executive in a soft drinks company, resigns when Rajat Kapoor (the company's owner) goes ahead with selling cola that is high on pesticide content? Chhaya feels that the decision by his company's management is unethical and he cannot work in an environment that goes against his values in life.

There are many times when such a situation could arise, but is resigning the only option? "No," says E Balaji, COO, Ma Foi Management Consultants Limited, "'being resigned to' is an attitude that limits possibilities. One may want to see the extent to which the dissonance happens and the degree of personal involvement.

For example, an Israeli citizen may not have approved of his country's recent aggression on Lebanon. That does not make the person quit the country and take citizenship elsewhere. However, a violation which makes the employee involved in an action that transgresses their core values, should be  cause for concern."

Adds Milind Kelkar, Chief of Business Services, Vertex (India), "One can stay on and try to influence the system/escalate the matter to the right people. Escaping from such scenarios will not help, as you could find similar issues in the new workplace as well. Every company has processes to deal with such situations. At times, reality can be different from what is visible. It may be appropriate to find facts prior to taking a decisive action."

Susan Raj, Head HR, Dynamic Vertical Solutions feels that in such a situation of "managerial mischief" which includes "illegal, unethical, or questionable practices of management", the cause of such behaviours have led many to believe that business ethics is merely a "moral maze of management" and includes the numerous ethical problems that managers must deal with on a daily basis.

However, ethical dilemmas faced by employees are often more real-to-life and highly complex with no clear guidelines. "More often than not, business ethics is portrayed as a matter of creating conflicts in which resignation appears to be the clear choice, but never the best option.

The employee should follow the highly practical practice of "values management" involving identifying and prioritising values to guide personal behaviours in such circumstances. With 90 per cent of business schools now providing some form of training in business ethics, ethics in the workplace can be managed by abiding with the codes of ethics, conduct, policies and procedures etc," says Raj.

But, is going along with the management's decision a much more practical option, keeping monetary considerations in mind? "Yes," says Pramod Jajoo, MD, Indian Operations and VP, Engineering, Xora, "Financial obligations towards family are important. One should look for a compromise - look for opportunities outside and then resign."

Is there any other alternative in such a situation? "No," says Professor Rimmi Juneja, Associate Dean HR, Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research, "There are options in life. But, your beliefs and values are the guiding forces, use them to take a call, no one else can do it for you."

Surya Vir Singh, Assistant Chief Manager, Sahara Infrastructure and Housing feels that another alternative is to analyse and evaluate the existing and futuristic situation in a rational manner.

But, the million-dollar question is should an employee bring his/her ethics into consideration while doing a job? Says Balaji, "All employees are people and they have values. Some may set high standards while others may be open to flexible or low standards.

In the long term, high ethical standards help employees to be seen as dependable and highly responsible. Hence, employees with superior ethical standards tend to gain better career prospects in the long term. However, too high a standard in an eclectic cultural context may be seen as fanatical and thus be a misfit in companies."

Adds Perry Madan, Associate Partner, Elixir Web Solutions, "The employee must definitely bring his/her ethics into consideration, but should join only that company whose ethics are compatible with his/hers.  At the end of the day, it is the satisfaction of a good job profile that matters more than anything else. If the employee is not happy with what he/she is doing during the day, there is no point in eight hours of hard work and not being satisfied."

Sums up Raj, "To strike the right balance between personal and professional ethics, a key element is the employee's success or failure in drawing a line between personal and professional ethics and whether or not the two are mutually exclusive.

To stimulate and complement sound ethical decisions, employees should examine how their personal ethics impact their relationships with co-workers, management, and customers. To enhance work commitment, each employee should integrate personal ethical reasoning with other work behaviours in order to heighten professional ethical standards."

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