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Ethical practice - Lesson 3: your reflections

Welcome to the online community learning space for the lesson: Challenging unethical behaviour. Use this forum to discuss the community reflective activity in the lesson. Read the contributions of others, ‘liking’ those you find helpful and add your unique reflections to the conversation by replying to this post. Click here to return to the lesson page at any time.

Reflective community activity:
The CIPD’s report ‘The People Profession in 2018’ shows that 28% felt it was often necessary to compromise ethical values to succeed in their company. What advice would you give to a new employee who witnesses such behaviour?

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  • In reply to Michelle Battista:

    I was put in a position where as Head of HR my MD asked me promote a junior staff. Coincidentally there was a vacancy available for which the recruitment process had already started. My immediate response was to refer to our HR Mantra which is to 'set people up for success'. My recommendation therefore was to include her in the interview process and see how she performs. Unfortunately she could not demonstrate the ability to perform the role but my MD was still insistent that she is placed in the role. I advised him that someone else had performed better and was more suited to the position. As a compromise, I would meet with the individual to understand her aspirations and come up with a personal development plan and work with her to find the right position. He conceded. The question I asked myself at the time was would I do the same for another member of staff who approached me for assistance? Yes I would.
  • In reply to Joanna:

    I agree that we must never compromise on our personal values and ethics. Professional credibility and reputation are always at stake as an HR professional. Always state your concerns and support it with fact and consequences of deviating from the norm. Even if a rift results, your reputation will be intact.
  • I find it very surprising that over a quarter of the respondents felt that is was often necessary to compromise ethical values to succeed in their Companies. Having said that, the report is 2 years old now and perhaps we would see a different result, if this study were to be repeated; considering the topic of ethics has gained more awareness in recent years. I would be interested to learn which industries the respondents worked in, as the reading associated with this topic suggested that unethical decision- making is more common in highly competitive, fast paced industries.

    With regard to the question, I would advise the employee to speak to their line managers or the compliance department, if it was their manager who acted unethically. If the employee did not feel comfortable in raising this issue, an alternative might be to accompany the person when the issue was raised, or raise it on their behalf. Furthermore, I would highlight the whistleblowing procedure, as a potential speaking out mechanism.
  • Whilst an ideal world would mean new employees were not expected to compromise values, people and business objectives often cause conflicting expectations. It would all depend on the culture of the organisation. The individuals choice could also likely be determined by their personal circumstances, and they may feel it too risky to speak out and potentially lose their job if they had struggled to find a job for a while.
    Personally, if I was approached, I would initially see what I could do to effect change for them. Following that, I would encourage the employee to disclose their observation to their line manager, and follow up to see if this had been regarded / actioned. If the employee wanted to raise this in a meeting to gather other insight, it could be beneficial for them to gain understanding of how their peers feel about it and perhaps then give them more confidence to raise it further with senior management. If no change is seen, I would highlight the whistle blowing protections and encourage them to utilise this option if they felt strongly enough. It might also encourage me to equally utilise the same option after discussion with my HR colleagues. Unfortunately in some cases, employees feel so demotivated by this they will leave without ever really discussing honestly why they are leaving, and the issue continues.
  • The number of times I seen unethical behaviour arise due to conflicting job priorities is a real shame it's definitely a case of choosing the lesser of 2 evils. What I would do is challenge the reason for the behaviour and explain why I'm concerned, if I'm overridden then at least I can hold my head up high.
  • In reply to Carly:

    I think you've got a really good point there with regard to personal circumstances, Carly, it often is the deciding factor in whether an individual feels they are able to speak out. Having been a lone parent when my daughter was young, speaking out at work would have come with huge potential risks, so as with your example, I can see why personal circumstances can be a decider for some.

    Absolutely agree that many times reasons for leaving are not fully given at exit interviews, which of course makes it difficult for organisations to address issues. I think that often it takes time for individuals to reflect on their experience before even they have full clarity, perhaps a post-exit interview would be a good addition to organisations? Making contact a few months after the initial exit interview to find out if, after reflection, there is anything further the leaver would like to add? Some people may decline giving further comments, but I imagine it could bring forward some valuable insights in many cases. What are your thoughts?
  • In reply to Jennifer Sullivan:

    Love that, Jen.
  • In reply to Michelle Battista:

    I did attempt to highlight my concerns directly with the person, which was shot down in a very swift 'objection handle' which seemed prepared. I then took a step back to gather wider opinion externally to confirm that my concerns were legitimate and justified, and internally to identify if this was a 'rotten-apple' issue, or a 'bad-barrel'. Ultimately the go-ahead seemed to be granted from the top, and so where the line was drawn between that individual being a rotten-apple, and that dictating a bad-barrel culture was no longer clear.

    Ultimately I left the organisation as this became too strong of a red flag. I reflect back on this situation for personal development and see that I could have done more by:
    1. Making my concerns more official, so that they could be discussed in the right contexts and reach the HR team in a more structured manner
    2. Supporting my concerns with established theory and evidence - when tackling the highest authorities within an organisation, changing opinion and influencing their way of thinking will need to be shown in clearer and wider terms than what could be seen as individual perspective.
  • In reply to Carly:

    Very well put, Carly. I especially note your description of an all-too-familiar scenario.

    Often once the point has been reached that whistle blowing is the only remaining way to raise an issue, there is enough about the preceding stages which show the individual that the organisation may be incompatible and unable to be realigned. The individual therefore may already have become disengaged, and may leave or find another job and see there being no personal value to the whistle blowing anymore, only risk.

    The exit interview is a great asset here, so asking the right questions, and safeguarding against 'blockers' conducting the interviews on HR's behalf are key.
  • In reply to Laura:

    I think you've very accurately and succinctly summed-up the issue there, new employees especially provide a valuable fresh insight into unethical behaviour, as they've not yet been conditioned to see it as the 'norm'. Raising issues should absolutely be encouraged, but it would be naive not to acknowledge what the reporter would be considering in those situations:
    Fears of job security when speaking up
    Fear of 'making a name for themselves' etc.
    Often the problems are too widespread, and the battle may not be worth it, so the sooner the decision is made to move on, the less damage done to the individual's perspective on what is and isn't ethical.