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Principles and Ideas of Business Ethics

By: *************

BBA 4751-03C, Business Ethics

Professor O'Connor

Ethics play an increasingly important role in today's business environment.

From whistle-blowing to workplace privacy and from marketing, advertising and product

safety to occupational health and safety, the conduct of business is the public eye more

and more everyday. In this paper, I will examine and discuss the aforementioned topics.

First, what are ethics? According to American Heritage Dictionary, ethics is, "a. A set of principles of right conduct. b. A theory or system of moral values" (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000). From honoring a warranty to maintaining a healthy work environment, ethical decisions are crucial in good business practices.

One area in which ethics play a huge role is in whistle-blowing. Whistle-blowing is the release information by a member or former member of an organization that is evidence of illegal and/ or immoral conduct within the organization. Whistle-blowing can also include bringing to light conduct in an organization that is not illegal but definitely not in the public's best interest. Whistle-blowing involves the release of non-public information, usually concerning a matter of great importance. It is usually done to try to avert or rectify a serious wrong (Boatright, 2003, p.105). To qualify as whistle-blowing the information must be released outside regular channels of communication; following standard organizational procedures for reporting wrongdoing is not whistle-blowing.

Whistle-blowing is not always justified; it can have serious consequences for the organization as well as the person doing the whistle-blowing. It can cost jobs, destroy lives, and crumble businesses. It can also save lives when someone exposes a harmful product. It can save money when embezzlement is uncovered. The examples are boundless. Among many things, obligations have to be considered when deciding to blow the whistle. Employees should be loyal to their organizations but they are not obligated to do or participate in anything illegal or immoral even if told to do so by a superior. An employee is only obligated to obey all reasonable directives (Boatright, 2003, p.108). It is this way in the military also; all lawful orders must be followed without question and all unlawful orders must be questioned and declined. There are limits to the obligations individuals have as employees. Even under an agreement of confidentiality, employees are not duty bound to be involved in or cover up the commission of a crime. So even though whistle-blowing is not always justified, it definitely can be under the right circumstances such as exposing a harmful product, shoddy construction, embezzlement, or financial cover-ups. There are steps to take and many things to consider should one decide to blow the whistle. According to Boatright (2003), these considerations are as follows: Is the situation of sufficient moral importance to justify whistle-blowing? Do you have all the facts and do you properly understand them? Have all internal channels and steps short of whistle-blowing been exhausted? What is the best way to blow the whistle? Who should you tell? How much information should you release? Should you identify yourself or remain anonymous? What is your responsibility in view of your role in the organization? What are the chances for success? Following those steps will help in deciding whether to blow the whistle or just keep quiet.

Another thing to consider is available protection for the whistle-blower. Federal employees have the Civil Services Reform Act of 1978 which prohibits retaliation against employees who report instances of waste or corruption in government. There is also protection for those in the public and private sector. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 prohibits employers to retaliate against any employee who files a charge with the National Labor Relations Board. Employees are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when filing a charge of discrimination. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 provides protection for those filing complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "Other federal acts with antiretaliatory provisions are the Surface Mining Act, the Railway Safety Act, the Surface Transportation Safety Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Toxic Substance Control Act, the Clean Air Act, the Water Pollution Control Act, the Energy Reorganization Act, and the Solid Waste Disposal Act (Boatright, 2003, p. 115).

Protection is not only needed for employees but also for employers. Some protection for a company can come from an effective whistle-blowing policy. This policy can help a company handle misconduct on the lowest level possible instead of having it blasted on the nightly news. There are also risks involved with instituting a company whistle-blowing policy such as creating an environment of mistrust and uncertainty. A good whistle- blowing policy is comprised of several components. According to Graham Browning of Freshfields Brukhaus Deringer, "A whistleblowing policy should cover: the type of concerns staff should raise under the policy; the employer's commitment to dealing with such concerns appropriately; the fact that the worker will not be dismissed or victimized for having raised a disclosure; and the procedure for raising concerns within the business (for example by making one member of staff responsible for handling allegations and detailing how the employee will be kept informed about the matters he has raised) (Freshfields Brukhaus Deringer, 2001, p.2).

The decision to blow the whistle is not something to take lightly. Careful thought and consideration should be given to the idea of whistle-blowing; once you make an allegation you can't take it back.

Another idea in the ethics of business is workplace privacy. Privacy in the

workplace is the ability of a person to do a job without fellow employees or the company




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