The concept of business ethics is understood differently by various people. However, it all comes down to doing what is right in the workplace as dictated by the set rules and regulations regarding the conduct’s effects on products, services, and interactions with stakeholders. These norms which are in most cases established over long periods are important for our harmonious coexistence in the society, as well as in our relationships with others.
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These moral principles which are known as ethics greatly impact our lives. In this study, I shall discuss the importance of being ethical in one’s professional. Using my personal experiences as an entrepreneur, I shall look into the various aspects of ethical standards and how they applied in my business, how they affected my decisions and facilitated the smooth running of my business. I shall also delve into the various social aspects such as sexism, racism, discrimination, and how these factors affected my ethical principles while running my business and personal life.
My corporate responsibility
We all have to acknowledge the fact that all organizations are run by people and they have a direct or indirect effect on the society which makes up the environment in which they exist. Through my work experience, I had a chance to work with various institutions in my capacity as an accountant. The most challenging period was during my employment as a secretary of the Psychologist of the Grand Commander in the Israeli military.
I was expected to create questionnaires to determine a field soldier’s motivation, coping ability, and general mental health. This was a very important process in the military. This importance can be attributed to the fact that the mental status of the soldiers determined their efficiency and ability to follow orders and due processes. I was also tasked with the duty of creating test groups of soldiers to determine the overall mental state of the soldiers at different stages of service. Regarding this task, I came to learn that it was important to re-evaluate the employee’s performance to identify their weaknesses and formulate measures to address such weaknesses. Finally, I was expected to receive, analyze, and compiled the findings into a presentation for my superiors.
The final stage was the most taxing. Ethically, I was bound by law to present the results to my supervisors without malice or favor. However, some of the results were not as comforting as expected. This indicated that the soldiers whose results were unsatisfactory would have to be discharged or demoted to minimize the chances of future accidents caused by mental instability. Since I created and reviewed the questionnaires, I could not help but feel some sympathy for such soldiers who had dedicated their lives to serve and were on the brink of losing their livelihood due to psychological misfortunes. However, I had to do the right thing. I knew that lying about their conditions by falsifying the results would in the long-run harm other innocent people if not the soldiers themselves.
From this work experience, I learned that the behavior of a particular organization could be classified as either good or bad depending on some preconceive societal standards. The army like any other organization has social responsibilities and the soldiers are expected to serve and protect the public as well as the government that they represent. While it may be assumed that an organization is good owing to its huge membership and high success rates, I learned that this was a wrong assumption since socially irresponsible companies have been known to be successful. In light of the military, not all soldiers did the right thing. However, performance and behavioral ratings were always given to the army in general thus covering the underlying vices and shortcomings that existed within the institution.
Also, the goodness of an organization can be inferred by how it treats the people who work for it. The relationship that a company enjoys with its employees can be gauged by looking at the performance and commitment levels exhibited by the employees. As mentioned earlier, I worked in various institutions as an accountant. During these periods, I was in charge of managing company funds, balancing the accounts, and ensuring that the client’s money was effectively and efficiently utilized.
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However, in some cases, the records that I was supposed to work with were fairly disorganized. This showed that the employees lacked organization skills and commitment to what they were employed to do. Nevertheless, instead of complaining, I took it upon myself to educate the people I worked closely with. I tried to educate and train them on matters regarding the recording of transactions as well as organizing them.
This was an ethical move on my part considering that many people use such opportunities to sell out their colleagues and belittle them due to their weaknesses. Also, I learned that low performance and commitment levels among the employees are attributed to many factors such as relatively low pay that the company offers to its employees and the benefits that they receive. For example, employee benefits such as health care benefits and other allowances show the concern for employee welfare by the organization therefore leading to increased employee loyalty.
In addition to the good remunerations, a favorable working environment leads to employees who are motivated and driven to provide total consumer satisfaction. In the companies that I worked with, I realized that keeping the workforce content is important since the employees are the people on whom the success of the business rides.
From my work experiences, I learned the vital characteristics required to lead and manage a successful venture all the while maintaining great social and corporate responsibilities. In my point of view, management entails the effective and efficient utilization of resources that are available to an organization to achieve organizational goals and objectives. It involves planning, organizing, leading, and controlling organizations’ activities and resources. To this effect, managers are the people taxed with the role of marshaling the human resource in the organization for its growth and expansion. This indicates that managers must possess exemplary leadership skills to fulfill these tasks.
Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibilities in my business
I fully implemented these qualities (management and leadership) between 2006 and 2008 when I started my own business. After carefully studying the market and business environment, I decided that venturing into the beauty industry was my next logical step towards self-employment. This decision was based on the fact that the market was significantly large and the suppliers of beauty products were relatively fewer than what the market demanded.
Also, the rate of unemployment in today’s society is worrying and I thought that having a personal business would at the least make a difference through the creation of employment opportunities. Also, the ripple effect that results from opening up a new venture positively affects unemployment. Up-to-date, some people are working in different sectors because of my business. Examples of such people include drivers, distributors, and sales representatives who got their jobs indirectly due to my efforts.
The first step towards my entrepreneurial ambitions was to develop a business plan. My educational capabilities as well as my work experience came in handy during this process. In my business plan, I had to consider various financial opportunities and challenges that could result from starting my business. The key to creating a successful business plan was ethical considerations that had to be made to ensure that my business conformed to the requirements set by the law and society.
We currently live in an environment where ethical behavior has always been assumed to be the foundation of a productive and well functional society. However, business ethics have not been given much consideration and businesses have been subjected to little criticism for their ethical behavior so long as they did not break the law. Ethics can loosely be defined as a system of moral principles by which social conduct is judged as either “right” or “wrong”.
As relates to business, ethics are moral principles that prescribe what legitimate behavior in varied business dealings is. While the public and government previously demonstrated little concern for business ethics, the financial meltdown of 2008 that resulted in the near-crash of the global economy has resulted in a more critical look at business ethics. This action has to a large extent been catalyzed by the widely held perception that ethically unsound practices by the business and financial industry were responsible for the financial crises. To this effect, I had to make sure that all activities in my business were ethically sound. This was especially so in all matters about finances and the personalities of my employees.
Perhaps one of the most endearing characteristics of my business is its customer service. While most companies do make attempts at ensuring that customer relations are good, very few organizations can boast of evoking the levels of loyalty and trust that I have created with my customers. I believe that every organization must ensure that its client gets the best of services as well as what they are paying for (quality goods and services).
After creating and implementing my business plan, I ensured that all aspects of the business were carefully taken care of. I supervised the plan layout, the interior design of the offices, and even designed the logo for my company. I did all this to ensure that I create a business environment that was safe, versatile, and attentive to the needs of those that we serve.
Management of my business
Throughout their existence, organizations and businesses are considerably pressured to raise their levels of performance and productivity. This is especially so in the modern-day business environment which is characterized by aggression and excessive competition thereby constantly forcing businesses to exhibit innovation and enhanced performance to remain relevant and profitable in the ever-increasingly competitive arena. The function of management is especially significant to the success of the organization since these are the people taxed with marshaling the human resource in the organization for its growth and expansion.
As an exemplary leader, it is my responsibility to ensure that my organization has a sense of purpose and is working towards the achievement of some organizational goals. I worked hard to generate and sustain trust between my administration, employees, and clients as was demonstrated by the leaders in the companies that I worked for. These qualities have up-to-date resulted in the promotion of hope and confidence in the organization’s workforce.
Also, they have heightened the levels of optimism within the organization all the while boosting employee’s morale. This is a good indicator and guarantees future success in all organizational endeavors. With this in mind, I always ensure that all my employees understand what is expected of them not only at work but also in society. A point worth noting is that how the employees behave in society reflects the company that they represent.
Therefore, I always ensure that I communicate the expected code of conduct to all new and existing employees to safeguard the positive perception and reputation that I have worked so hard to establish with my immediate community.
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To further promote this public image, I ensured that all employees had uniforms and learned business etiquette in regards to handling customer grievances, ensuring customer satisfaction, and resolving conflicts in a just and neutral manner. To minimize the chances of conflicts, I oversee all financial management processes and distribute the funds equitable according to the degree of need in various departments. My success in this task is attributed to the fact that I am well versed with accounting processes and skills which I acquired and perfected through my work experiences.
The establishment of business ethics is becoming a necessity in the business realms following the revelations of the consequences that unethical business practices can have on the environment. Government involvement in some cases to ensure that business operates within some set parameters has in some instances been necessitated. However, this is not enough for as Crane & Matten assert, the effectiveness of the business ethics adopted purely depends on the willingness and morality of the business people (73). In this regard, I ensured that my employees and I participated in the quest for a greener environment.
To elaborate on my company’s active contribution to environmental conservation, I took some environmentally conscious actions. To reduce my carbon footprint, my company had invested in solar panels and installed skylights to cut on energy usage. Another move by the company was the replacement of plastic bags with hybrid packages contained as little plastic as possible. This move was motivated by the realization that plastic is detrimental to the environment and while the hybrid material that the company switched to is not 100% environmentally friendly, they are made from recycled products and are biodegradable which means that they are safer to the environment.
Management of Social issues
An interesting concept when dealing with ethics is that there does not exist a standardized approach to dealing with ethical issues as they all spring from very unique legal, political, social, and economic backgrounds. As such, there are “no ‘uniform’ ethical practices though there may be those practices that are generally accepted by society (Crane and Matten 19).” This vague interpretation of the word ethics is what makes ethical issues in business dealings hard to determine.
For example, one of the factors that led to the financial meltdown of 2008 was the overemphasis on profits at the expense of all else. This practice was against the utilitarian ethical theory which stated that the collective welfare of the people overrides the individual.
The lack of concern for the overall good of the society stemmed from the increase in equity-based compensation to top executives. This resulted in the declaration that “the paramount duty of management and board is to the shareholder and not to other stakeholders”. Bearing in mind that corporate governance and management have a direct influence as to the running of an enterprise and therefore its ethical practices, the shift in their allegiance to primarily protecting the interests of shareholders led to unethical practices.
In this regard, in 2006 I attended a series of seminars to gain useful insight on management, leadership, and ethical standards required in business today. My interaction with various attendees was very forthcoming. What surprised me was that most of the people that I spoke to had at one time or the other encountered some form of discrimination at work. Also, I realized that greed in business is often camouflaged by ambitions. These revelations further motivated me to advocate and promote equality in my business all the while maintaining ethical dealings.
Ethics together with knowledge results in businesses co-existing in an environment of trust rather than confrontation. Individualistic competitiveness is therefore to be downplayed and in its place interdependence which will ensure future economic prosperity practiced. These are ethical values which up to date are lacking in many businesses. In every business, employees are bound to compete and have other conflicts of interest. As such, they often refuse to assist each other because of increased counter-party risk that may arise due to helping others. This individualistic approach may lead to the failure of the whole organization. With this in mind, I always ensured that I promoted teamwork among my employees and rewarded them more for collective achievements.
Unemployment, racism, and sexual discrimination are rife in today’s business environment. To avoid such circumstances I took it upon myself to draft the employment agreements, train the employees, and supervise the recruitment process. In my point of view, partaking in these responsibilities was ethical as it enabled me to hand-picked the people that I felt could follow my vision and help them work by the standards that I had set. This would in turn ensure their job security and minimize any chances of unethical conduct such as discrimination and racial conflicts.
Also, I ensured that I employed people from different races and sex in a bid to promote equality in my business. I am a firm proponent of affirmative action and I believe that people can perform regardless of their sex, race, age, and ethnic background. I remember that during my stay in New York, the social network played a pivotal role in helping individuals secure jobs. Sadly, in some cases, qualified candidates often missed job opportunities because of their race, sexual orientation, or age. I could never stand for that because it is unethical.
While all businesses aim to make a profit, it is reasonably assumed that this profit is within limits of the investments that the business owners make. It is therefore perceived to be unethical for a business to hope to achieve profits that far transcend the investments made. When business endeavors to reap more benefits that can be expected from their investment, the business can be labeled as being greedy. By definition, greed can be described as “occurring in situations where an individual seeks an economic return of greater value than what her input should reasonably earn and in so doing imposes costs upon others (Crane and Matten 75) “.
Since my company is not the manufacture of the products that we deal with, I had to make sure that all decisions made while running the business increased the chances of making profits while reducing the cost of operations. All this was to be done without using any fraudulent or deceptive means of transacting business. As such, the location of my company was very important. I ensured that I was close to my target market and suppliers.
This ultimately reduced the cost of transportation of the products to the market as well as the costs incurred to bring in the products from the suppliers. Also, I conducted regular meetings with the staff to get the various issues that affected or limited their ability to perform efficiently. Also, through the meetings, I set the targets that had to be achieved by all employees within a specific period. This ensured that the employees remain vigilant and committed to their jobs.
Transparency is one of the virtues that any ethically sound society upholds. In a business environment, this virtue dictates that business dealings be carried out with honesty as much disclosure as is possible. Sound business practices required firms to transact business without lying to their clients. This mainly refers to the delivery of quality products and at a reasonably fair price. In some instances, corporations have been accused of misleading their clients. This was the case in 2008 as financial institutes withheld information from both their shareholders and other relevant parties.
Similarly, one of the avenues through which deception can be seen is through advertising. Advertisements have in the recent past contributed to the success of many organizations. The influence that advertisements have on the people is colossal as can be inferred from the rise in sales for corporations that engage in the large-scale advertisement. All this is in an attempt by the creator of the advert to persuade the consumer to think, feel, or act in a predetermined manner.
To this effect, I ensured that I advertised our product at least once a month. This also helped in raising our profit margins. New clients attributed their knowledge of our products to the advertisements posted in various media outlets. Since advertisements can be used to influence the perception of people towards a particular product, I ensured that I did the ethical thing and advertised our product as it is. I never made the product seem better than it was.
The other means that I used to make profits in my business was through sales maximization. As mentioned earlier, my company does not manufacture the products. As such, our profit margin emanates from the difference between the costs incurred in acquiring as well as distributing the products and the price at which we sell to our clients. The most logical means to guarantee the most profits would therefore be to sell at a higher price.
However, this in my book is unethical and may lead to a loss of the market since it oppresses the consumers. As such, I designed a business concept that focused on sale maximization as a means of acquiring profits. To guarantee that this was successful, I ensured that my employees participated in the door to door sales and offer discounts for return customers.
The impact that technology has in today’s environment cannot be understated. In regards to business, technological advancements such as e-mailing, networking, and teleconferencing have enabled business entities to communicate with each other as well as their clients and employees. My company was not one to be left behind by such great innovations. Through the installation of computer workstations, my employees were able to record their daily activities, communicate with each other and most importantly, keep in touch with the clients.
With the recording and tracking systems installed, I was able to monitor my employee’s activities as well as consumer trends and needs. As such, in my company, technology played a pivotal role in ensuring that the set ethical standards were met and communicated across the business setting.
Ethical behavior has always been the foundation of a productive and well functional society. Every organization should be dedicated to a guiding principle of reasonable transactions and veracity in the conduct of its business. This pledge is based on the tenets that business dealings should be conducted in an honest, just, and legal manner. Employees are expected to commit and conform to the set moral, ethical, and legal obligations.
Non-conformity can result in great losses for society and even the entire collapse of our financial systems. From this paper, it is clear that the establishment of business ethics is necessary to avoid future failure of our financial and business system. It is only by instilling ethical values in all business players that the prosperity of society can be guaranteed.
Crane, Andrew, and Dirk Matten. Business ethics: managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization, London: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.