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Law: Human Service Ethics

Introduction

Since the human service segment is a large field, it is at times tricky to describe. In the broad sense, human service institutions have the purpose of satisfying people’s wants by incorporating knowledge of various professionals. They function in two ways; they put a stop to any situations that may lead to scarcity of human needs, and they also respond to circumstances that may need human services. They are dedicated to uplifting the existing quality of human life. To attain this, they make sure that they are competent in terms of delivering their services. These institutions cannot function appropriately if their workers do not stick to their code of ethics, be involved in positive scrutiny and hearten neighbourhood well-being (Sims, 1999).

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Code of ethics for Human Service Professionals

The work of people involved in human service, range from dealing with families to societies. Whoever they deal with, they are regarded as clients. The work of professionals include educating, administrating and as a specialist. A code of ethics has been written on the kind of relationship that should exist between professionals and clients, other professionals, the employer and the profession itself. As far as codes between clients and professionals are concerned, professionals are supposed to inform their clients exactly what they are planning to do and also involve the client in decision making. Professionals should always up hold high integrity and not breach the trust and confidentiality between them and the clients.

In some circumstances, confidentiality may be ignored if someone else’ life is in danger. Professionals are also advised strongly against having sexual relationship with their clients. When this occurs, someone usually gets hurt and the professional may loose focus and shift priorities (Nash, 2002).

Other codes of ethics like the ones between the professionals and their managers, or within themselves, are intended to offer the client with the finest package possible. Principles between one professional and the other are meant to aid them to work in harmony and offer course of action in resolving internal matters. This will avoid the professionals from confronting each other in an unfriendly way, or motivating the clients to prefer one professional over the other.

Ethical codes between the professionals and their managers are designed to encourage a healthy relationship between the manager and the employees. Harmonization between the manager and the employee is crucial for competent operations of an institution. The code of ethics regarding the professionals and their profession is meant to remind the professionals to act with professionalism and also to respect other fields of professionals (Nash, 2002).

Business Ethics

Human service organizations are mostly non-profit. However, looking at business ethics gives an insight on how human service organization can benefit from upholding their code of ethics. In the 1960s, people expected businesses to be socially responsible since they were making huge profits through their country’s wealth. They expected businesses to solve issues regarding crime, health, education and poverty. Sadly though, social welfare was the least of their concern. Recently, things have taken a turn and businesses have realized that they can make even more profits by adhering to some code of ethics. Without a doubt, morality has penetrated businesses in almost all aspects. In business schools, learning about code of conduct has become mandatory (Sims, 1999).

The appearance of morality in a business setting has come together with other leadership theories. This is evident by the emergence of public relation and human resource departments. Adaption of code of ethics was necessary if companies were genuinely concerned with the public. Not everybody welcomed the idea of morality in money making businesses; some of the corporate managers rejected it. Some myths were formulated to discourage implementation of ethics in the work place. Some of them have argued that ethics is more of faith rather than administrative. Others believe that ethics is in born, and one does not need to be reminded. Furthermore, ethics was seen to dictate what was obvious. With all this criticism, it has been quite difficult to ensure that employees maintain morality (Kenyon, 1998).

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The challenge of ethical behaviour

In the 21st, century the everyday activities of an organization are so overwhelming such that there is little room left for moral issues. Ethics or ethical issues are usually regarded as obscure; they are seen to be of no value when it comes to working efficiently. When ethics is mentioned, people usually relate it to what they learnt in school about ancient philosophers. To them, it does not make sense to pay attention to what the philosophers said since we are in the 21st century. Perhaps there is a big gap between the corporate world and what Plato talked about, either way, ethical issues can never be ignored.

From the definition of the word ethics, it is apparent that any type of organization can relate to ethics especially when it comes to an organization that is responsible for providing service to the public. Codes of ethics are usually a reminder to government officials and workers that, the citizens expect them to uphold elevated moral values (Burgess & Woodrow, 1991).

Without a doubt, many organizations have shown their commitment to morality through a formal Code of Ethics. After that, the idealism is forgotten and people carry on with their businesses as usual. Other organizations have taken a step further by focusing on their relevance and evenness, but that is how far they go. A lot of guidance on business ethics is not focused on giving practical guidance to managers and leaders.

Consequently, managers make forceful efforts to apply the literature available to ensure morality in their firms. Looking critically at the literature available, we find that most of it preaches about doing what is right and not doing what is wrong. Simple questions are usually asked on whether to do one thing or the other. In the real world, circumstances are usually more complicated, and the difference between right and wrong is sometimes fuzzy. The absence of practical literature cannot be pinned on philosophers or scholars. The problem lies in the leaders themselves; managers do not involve themselves in formulation of code of ethics (Barker, 2010).

There is a major concern on lack of morality in human service organizations, especially the employees. In a recent study, it was found out that the employees were involved in the loss of half of all organization’s property and funds. This is higher than the theft carried out by outlaws and customers. Almost everyday, we read of unethical behaviors in various organizations like Wall Street, hospitals and learning institutions. This goes to show how unethical behavior has penetrated our service sector (Kenyon, 1998).

The biggest problem when it comes to fighting morality in organizations is that there is no definite right and wrong. Most of the actions are in the intermediate; they are neither right nor wrong. Consequently, organizations are forced to abandon ethics by the circumstances; it maybe due to foreign policies or diplomatic reasons. Here is scenario; imagine you are a sales person from an American firm and you have been sent to another country, say Nigeria, where similar firms use bribes to get contracts. That kind of conduct is illegal in America but tolerable in Nigeria. What about hiring women in countries where citizens are staunch followers of Islamic law.

In Islam, women are considered inferior than men, which is quite contrary to what Americans believe. By hiring women, you risk your organization being excluded from the local business communities. How will you go about it? What might be morally acceptable in one country might not be in another country. This is a big challenge since most firms have opened their branches offshore. For effective application of ethics in human service organizations, they must learn to behave ethically in their everyday assignments (Burgess & Woodrow, 1991).

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The probability of employees behaving immorally is quite high, especially in the recent years. For example, Manville Corporation allowed the use of asbestos materials in brakes even though there was irrefutable evidence that the material caused lung cancer. Ford took no action on their Pinto even after they realized that there was great potential of the cars exploding when they were hit at the back; this was due to the gas tank being located at the rear of the car. Everyday, hundreds of companies continue to spill toxic waste to our water sources causing complications and later death. Studies have indicated that about 66% of all major American companies have broken the law at one time or the other. All those companies were focused in making more money rather than the welfare of the people (Barker, 2010).

Even in human service organization, immorality is as common as the sky. Using taxpayer’s money to by the president a bed or Harvard University buying a yacht has somehow been accepted as not being morally wrong. Students nowadays are known to bribe their way to higher learning institutions. Unqualified students find their way in colleges at the expense of other students who are relatively poor and have qualified. This tradition has been occurring for the past years, yet the authorities take no action (Manning, 2000).

Why is it that people behave immorally and yet they are completely aware that it is wrong? It has come to be known that organizations end up rewarding an individual who is unethical than the one who is, in fact the one who is ethical, might end up being punished. An efficient business executive is expected to be involved in bribery and taking shortcuts. On the other hand, whistle blowers are usually fired and sometimes blacklisted. Organizations have accepted what goes against ethical principles to be the norm. For example, it later came to be known that the B.F Goodrich awarded the workers who altered data on the condition of the brakes, to be certified.

Also, workers of Metropolitan Edison were strongly advised against giving information to the extent of nuclear damage in the Three Mile Island. Other people operate by the mentality that the end justifies the means. This has been witnessed in the political scene. During the allocation of funds by the U.S congress, we see that the senators compel the congress to devote funds to their home areas. Although the allocation of funds to their home areas creates employment, what they are really after is maintaining their political popularity. That has led to underdevelopment in some areas where the senators are not much influential (Petracchi & Morgenbesser, 1990).

Suggestions on resolving the ethical problem

Recent studies have come up with a couple of strategies that aim to further the progress of moral behaviors in human service organizations. To begin with, employers are supposed to have ethical consciousness and act accordingly; this will set a good example for their employees to follow. Research which has been done for over 20 years has indicated that; the conduct or the moral grounds of top managers have a great influence on the conduct of the whole organization as a whole.

Therefore, it is extremely important that the managers of human service organization maintain high moral standards. From the same study, we can conclude that the various literatures on ethics have very little impact on the employees. The only mean something if they are observed by the managers. The research concludes that; if ethical behavior is truly needed, there should be a system where ethical professionals are rewarded by standing on higher moral grounds (Kenyon, 1998).

What about when there is an ethical dilemma, what steps should the managers take? If a professional is faced with a dilemma he should first of all be able to clarify the dilemma by collecting all the facts. Afterwards, a list of all possible options should be made. Then the individual will check whether the options available are wrong, legal and their consequences; both financially and morally. After all that has been weighed, a decision should be made. After the decision has been made, the individual should ask himself how he would feel if his decision was to be made public. Once he has confirmed that he will have a clear conscious, he should take the appropriate action (Shannon, 2000).

What about when adhering to cultural standard may harm the organization financially? For example, an agriculturalist may be bribed to buy certain cheap seeds from a particular company that has been known to have low quality products. On the other hand, the company sells the seed at an unbelievable low price. If he decides to by from that company, he would have saved his organization a lot of money, not forgetting the amount of cash he will carry home.

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It has been known for a long time that organizations that have dubious dealings, do not last for a long time. In the example above, if the agriculturalist ends up buying the low quality seeds, the farmers might end up not harvesting at all. The result then would be catastrophic. Organizations should realize that making shortcuts would come back to bite them in the back (Burgess & Woodrow, 1991).

When ethical structure is being formulated, there are a couple of things that managers need to keep in mind. When approaching the clients, the professionals and their employer should not promise something they would not fulfill. When the capabilities of the organization are known, the clients will not feel cheated when there are some shortcomings. The managers should also encourage the employees to be channeling all their professional work through the organization.

This will prevent side dealings that may result to exploitation of clients and at the same time, maintain moral integrity of the organization. Since cultures vary from one location to another, managers should have enough information regarding a community’s moral grounds before formulating one for his organization. These values should also be supported by the majority of the professionals. As far as the morality of the clients is concerned, the managers together with the professionals should not be too rigid in order to accommodate special cases brought by the client. No matter how special a case maybe, all the dealings should be done via the company (Manning, 2000).

There should also be another section of the organization that deals with internal affairs. This branch is supposed to maintain ethics in the organization by protecting the whistle blowers, and ensuring that those who are found guilty of unlawful behavior are dealt with accordingly. To make sure that all the professionals are on the same page regarding morality, lessons should be given to all members of the organization. These lessons are supposed to ensure that each and every member understands the reason behind every ethical rule. These lessons should have practical examples that relate to their particular organization so that the will appear more practical (Barker, 2010).

Unethical cases have become rampant in the human service sector in the recent years, but there is great potential of changing that if the managers were more dedicated than they are. Ethical organizations have great potential in influencing societies or the public in general. During this difficult era, what is desirable is that more human service organizations publicly function with burly, constructive and moral cultures. Whether at one time the human service organizations will be moral, is a matter of time. Current trends of how humans are directed by greed and selfishness, kills all hopes of achieving higher moral standards. The closest organizations will ever reach moral perfection is in the past, and never will it be achieved in the future (Petracchi & Morgenbesser, 1990).

References

Barker, P. (2010). Mental Health Ethics: The human context. Seattle: Routledge.

Burgess, M., & Woodrow, B. (1991). Contemporary Issues in Pediatric Ethics (Studies in Health & Human Services). Edwin Mellen Press: London.

Kenyon, P. (1998). What Would You Do?: An Ethical Case Workbook for Human Service Professionals. Chicago: Brooks Cole.

Manning, S. S. (2000). Ethical Leadership in Human Services: A Multi-Dimensional Approach. Chicago: Kendall Hunt Pub Co.

Nash, R. J. (2002). Real World” Ethics: Frameworks for Educators and Human Service Professionals. Teachers College Press: New York.

Petracchi, H. E., & Morgenbesser, M. (1990). Hmong in America Providing Ethic Sensitive Human Services: Providing Ethnic-Sensitive Health, Education, and Human Services. Chicago: Kendall Hunt Pub Co.

Shannon, T. A. (2000). Twelve Problems in Health Care Ethics (Studies in Health and Human Services). New York: Edwin Mellen Pr.

Sims, R. (1999). The Challenge of Ethical Behavior in Organizations. Journal of Business Ethics , 10-15.

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