Ethical Issues in Management; Harassment or Flirting An ethical workplace has never been more important in today’s business world; one must be very careful and sometimes to a degree think as if paranoid when dealing with allegations of harassment to protect one’s self, especially now that more organizations are going global. Harassment in the workplace, especially of a sexual nature, can cost anyone his or her job if interpreted as sexual harassment instead of a pure intention of simply giving a compliment. According to the American Dictionary (2009), harassment is to irritate or torment persistently.
The following paragraphs will attempt to explain a scenario in which a male employee of an organization made up of 95% women continually flirted with his female co-workers. According to a PowerPoint presentation in the MTG 216 class (2010), bias affects how we communicate in words and by paralanguage (body language). With this in mind eventually, the employee went too far and was reprimanded by his supervisor to prevent the alleged sexual harassment turning into a legal court suit. This is not a case of quid pro quo harassment but a case of hostile environment harassment.
According to Keyton and Rhodes (1997), “Quid pro quo harassment is created when an employee is forced to choose between giving into a superior’s sexual demands”. This is a case of hostile environment harassment, defined as an employee’s sexual conduct unreasonably interferes with a coworkers work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Moral and ethical issues faced by managers may include a subordinate that has crossed the ethical line of complementing a female or male co-worker in the workplace.
The manager must therefore communicate to his or her employee the seriousness of the alleged sexual harassment. Employees are protected under both federal and state laws against workplace harassment with the civil rights act of 1964. The civil rights act of 1964 expands on workplace discrimination pertaining to employers with fifteen or more employees. Conflicting interest may be a factor when the accused employee has a relative and or close friend that works in the human resource department of the same agency as him or her. If this is the case, the manager will take care and follow communication protocol to the letter. The manager may choose o go to the agencies EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agent and the HR department to explain and receive direction on how to communicate and pursue the allegations towards his or her subordinate. HR professionals are the key in establishing and enforcing ethics throughout their organizations. The ethical goal is to communicate values, ethics, and policies in a variety of formal and informal ways, which would meet employee’s needs. Therefore, it is important for HR to be a partner with legal in establishing and enforcing the rules that everyone must follow and safeguarding the agencies reputation in the eyes of the community.
Cultural values and ethics are also a factor for ethical issues in management. In the workplace example provided, the employee accused of sexual harassment is from Bosnia and has strong family beliefs. As in the Schwartz and Rubel-Lifschitz study of 1992, the employee’s basic values are power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security. In the comparisons of the workplace in mention and the Schwartz and Rubel-Lifschitz study, the employee and his co-workers should be permitted to pursue their cultural values they inherently care about more freely (Anonymous, 2008).
Aracic stated, “My parents and their parents before them were taught that a verbal compliment to a woman is a sign of respect to the women’s body” (personal communication, March 19, 2010. ) it is not intended or should be censured as sexual harassment. Communication protocol is to be followed by keeping the line of communication open between directors and managers, managers and supervisors, supervisors and their subordinates. The manager cannot take a “cookie cutter” approach, Trevino (2006), to this problem.
The relationship between social issues and ethically responsible management practices relates heavily to the topic of harassment. If the situation is not rectified properly the community might accidently hear the gossip or it may be given to the press anonymously, resulting in damaging the organizations ethical reputation within the company and in the community. Preventions are in place to accommodate the problem, such as harassment in the workplace trainings upon hire, policies in employee handbook and yearly performance evaluations.
These preventive tools are in place to minimize unethical behaviors within an organization. If the employee does not utilize the tools and sufficient improvement does not happen, management will have no choice, but to make the ethical decision and place the employee on a corrective action plan. The steps of a corrective action plan process may entail first, verbal or written warning (talk and document), second, suspension with documentation, and third, suspension or termination. It is suggested that supervisors train their staff on this process to prevent unnecessary miscommunication and possibly severe consequences.
Management may be involved in legal actions if the situation is not taken care of ethically and promptly. After a period an anonymous female staff member complaints of sexual harassment will fester within the agency and she may decide to file legal charges if the jesters and or offensive language continue to persist. Fortunately, in this case, the employee’s supervisor does not follow the thinking of Felix Rohatyn, a noted New York investment banker; he believed that ethics could not be taught past 10 years of age. Trevino, (2006).
Ethical issues in management are discussed and decisions are made daily. Management followed the chain of command to communicate to the employee. The EEOC of the agency discussed the situation with the supervisor, training him on the procedure how to implement corrective action towards his subordinate. The supervisor discussed the allegations with his employee and gave him a verbal warning, strongly stating the implications of an alleged sexual harassment complaint may have legal ramifications and endure professional costs and possible penalties for ethical or legal transgressions.
The supervisor also provided his employee copies of the organizations values and mission statement along with appropriate personnel policies and a copy of the code of ethics. Therefore, the outcome to this workplace sexual harassment dilemma is in process and the bottom line decision will come in time and when proof from the employee that he is willing and able to abide by and act with ethical professional conduct towards his female co-workers. In the meantime, he still has a job and he is working side-by-side with his supervisor to rectify the allegations of sexual harassment.