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Business ethics and ethical leadership are sometimes associated with idealistic (nearly utopian) notions. Many think that in present day context, these concepts are not too relevant, and a study of these contexts is highly theoretical, with limited practical applicability. Even I had some doubts about the practical utility of values, morals and ethics in current business setups where competition is fierce, and it is more about “survival of the fittest”. Sometimes, being ethical at workplace puts one at a disadvantage compared to those who are indulging in unethical practices. This is one reason for people (specially youth) to be wary of being ethical, and being considered “ethical”. Considering the immorality of “successful” politicians and businessmen (leaders) which surfaces in media from time to time, the motivation to be ethical is not very high. However, a perusal of the literature, and my reflection based on personal beliefs, has led to an acceptance that ethical leadership is extremely relevant in current business environment. In some ways, ethics are more relevant today than what they were years ago. It does not have to be the highest level idealistic concept, but it surely needs to be appropriate enough so that it can have a positive influence on the members of an organization. I also believe that, though a majority of the effect of leader’s behavior is on the subordinates or followers, a rub-off effect is also there on peers, superiors and external stakeholders. In this journal, I have highlighted the essence of the literature which has influenced my beliefs about business ethics and ethical leadership. I have also put down my thoughts about what I learned and interpreted from the course, and how it may help me in the future.
LITERATURE & REFLECTIONS
Schwartz and Bilsky (1987)
As stated by Schwartz and Bilsky (1987), values are our personal beliefs which we use to realize what is right or wrong. They are cognitive representations of certain universal requirements, and there are eight motivational domains of values, namely, enjoyment, security, social power, achievement, self-direction, being pro-social, restrictive conformity, and maturity. Further, values serve different interests like (individualistic vs. collectivist) and goals (terminal vs. instrumental). Importantly, people discriminate among values according to their specifications of goal types, interests served, and motivational domains. Furthermore, the motivational domains of values are organized dynamically in relation to one another.
In an organizational context, it is important to keep in mind that values differ from person to person. They, inter-alia, depend on the motivational needs and individual idiosyncrasies. For example, values may vary with cultural influences and also depend on the cognitive process undergone by the individual in his life. Further, the whole paradigm is dynamic, and people can change with situations. On the other hand, there are some universal values which are acceptable in most social and business environments. So improving the ethical standards of an organization may be easier if the principles or codes formulated are articulated in a manner which makes them appear akin to the universal principles. In case some relatively “radical” ethical code needs to be implemented, special care should be taken to ensure proper communication. In case of unacceptable behavior by any individual member, it is important for the HR personnel (or the disciplining authority) to try to understand the reason for the aberration so that corrective action can be measured and appropriately directed. Basically, a manager needs to make a uniform policy applicable to all. However, framing the policy and its communication needs to keep in mind the internal and external environment.
Bilsky and Schwartz (1994)
As stated by Bilsky and Schwartz (1994), there is a meaningful and systematic association of value priorities with personality variables. Personality traits are typically perceived as description of observed patterns of behavior, while values are criteria used by individuals to judge the desirability of behavior, people and events. Traits vary with individuals in terms of how much of the characteristics are exhibited, while values vary based on the importance associated by individuals to the goals. Values are more internal and traits are external. Importantly, the relationship between values and personality traits are different based on which type of needs are attempted to be satisfied, growth needs (the higher needs like self actualization) or deficiency needs (e.g. health, safety). The motivations related to deficiency needs end after the desired outcome is achieved, while those associated with growth needs continue to be active even after a high levels of satisfaction are achieved. Importantly, values and traits are co-variant if the latter are inferred from behavior patterns aimed a satisfying growth needs (e.g. curiosity, generosity).
In organizations, values of individuals may vary based on “what is important for whom?”. For example, differences in values emanating from religion (morals) may be a source of differences. It is also apparent from above that motivating employees based on higher needs can be more effective, and have a more sustained impact than influencing them using deficiency needs.
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