The Need for ethics

The decisions made by managers in organizations have a broad reach both inside and outside the organizations. Thus managers must be concerned with values and ethics. Sometimes things go awry in the course of organizational activity. Our increasing alarm over industrial pollution is just one reminder that managers inevitably allocate advantage and disadvantages no matter what they do or fail to do. For example, Nike has developed a technological process capable of recycling every type of shoe the company makes except for cleated models. Now discarded shoes, rather than taking up landfill space, can be recycled to provide products that can be used to make new shoes. Nike’s recycling efforts come from a combination of corporate responsibility and the original purpose of the company: a passion for the environment that marks not only Nike’s home state of Oregon, but also the company’s founders and first customers, runners.

The study of who is and should be benefited or harmed by an action is called ethics. Ethics deals with both conflict and opportunity in human relationships. Ethical questions are among the most difficult ones any person faces. These questions deal with right and wrong where the magnitude of the decision is often great. Ethics provide the glue that holds our relationships, and the larger society, together. Our emphasis on human relationships throughout this article provides an opportunity to bring ethics into the discussion time and again. Natalie Anderson’s job involves dealing with ethical concerns because business ethics are major concern today.

The need for responsiveness to Cultural Diversity:

Education, travel, telecommunications, changing immigration policies, the end of the Cold War, and several decades of peacetime have combined to break down intercultural barriers to an extent not seen in the past. Organizations, reflecting modern life, have been permeated by these changes. Exciting new relationships and new possibilities are now available. Look around your college classroom and snack bar, or your workplace. Look at the people in the media and the leaders of your community and country. The change is probably obvious.

The workplace like the classroom is very different from what it was thirty years ago. One very prominent example of this is the influx of women, bringing not just numbers, but talent and perhaps different approaches to relationships. In short, managers of today’s organizations must be prepared to deal with diversity in their organizations and to draw on the talents of all of their employees. Indeed, from a global perspective, immigrants to this country, who present distinct multicultural issues and training needs, make up as much as 40 percent of the annual growth in the US workforce. In order to complete, companies must learn to manage these workforce entrants successfully.

Talent is color blind. Talent is gender blind. Talent has nothing to do with dialects, whether they’re Hispanic or Irish or Polish or Chinese. And we need talent all we can get. If America is to regain its competitive supremacy in the world we won’t do it just by re-stoking the blast furnaces in Pittsburgh, or cranking out more automobiles in Detroit. We will do it by harnessing the human power of all the diverse groups that make up this country.

Many managers are already deeply immersed in this challenge. With minorities and women comprising two thirds of American’s workforce, managers are finding it necessary to rethink traditional policies to accommodate the varying interest and needs of diverse groups of people. At the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, for example, managers have introduced dependent care benefits such as a child care hotline offering suggestions about day care options and an education hotline assisting parents in their evaluation of public and private schools for their children. In addition, Deloitte & Touche managers provide a flexible work schedule for partners in order to increase productivity and reduce the departure rate of women. In 1993, they went further in breaking tradition by allowing a partner in the firm to work part time so she could spend more time with her children.

At Baxter international a multinational health care company, managers have initiated the “Inside Advantage” program to deal with employees’ mobility within the organization. This program confronts ‘critical issues of workplace diversity: the way people have access to opportunity. The mere fact that a company has a director of diversity management is a telling sign of how managers are beginning to face the challenge of diversity in a positive and proactive way.