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Ethics of human resource management

'Human resource management' occupies the sphere of activity of recruitment selection, orientation, performance appraisal, training and development, industrial relations and health and safety issues where ethics really matters. The field since operate surrounded by market interests that commodify and instrumentalize everything for the sake of profit claimed in the name of shareholders, it should be predictable that there will be contesting claims of HR ethics.[76] Predictably, ethics of human resource management is a contested terrain like other sub-fields of business ethics. Business Ethicists differ in their orientation towards labour ethics. One group of ethicists influenced by the logic of neoliberalism propose that there can be no ethics beyond utilizing human resources towards earning higher profits for the shareholders.[77][78][79] The neoliberal orientation is challenged by the argument that labour well being is not second to the goal of shareholder profiteering.[80][81][82] Some others look at human resources management ethics as a discourse towards egalitarian workplace and dignity of labour.[83][84][85]

The discussions on ethical issues that may arise in the employment relationship, including the ethics of discrimination, and employees' rights and duties are commonly seen in the business ethics texts.[86] While some argue that there are certain inalienable rights of workplace such as a right to work, a right to privacy, a right to be paid in accordance with comparable worth, a right not to be the victim of discrimination,[87] others claim that these rights are negotiable.[88] Ethical discourse in HRM often reduced the ethical behaviour of firms as if they were charity from the firms rather than rights of employees.[89] Except in the occupations, where market conditions overwhelmingly favour employees, employees are treated disposable and expendable and thus they are defencelessly cornered to extreme vulnerability [90] The expendability of employees, however, is justified in the texts of 'business morality' on the ground the ethical position against such an expendability should be sacrificed for 'greater merit in a free market system' (Machan, p. 68).[91] Further, it is argued since because 'both employees and employers do in fact possess economic power' in the free market, it would be unethical if governments or labour unions 'impose employment terms on the labor relationship' (Machan, p. 67).[92] There are discussions of ethics in employment management individual practices, issues like policies and practices of human resource management, the roles of human resource (HR) practitioners, the decline of trade unionism, issues of globalizing the labour etc., in the recent HRM literature, though they do not occupy the central stage in the HR academics.[86] It is observed that with the decline of labour unions [93] world over,[94][95][96][97] employees are potentially more vulnerable to opportunistic and unethical behaviour.[98][99][100][101][102] It is criticized that HRM has become a strategic arm of shareholder profiteering through making workers into 'willing slaves'.[103][104][105][106] A well cited article points out that there are 'soft' and a 'hard' versions of HRMs, where in the soft-approach regard employees as a source of creative energy and participants in workplace decision making and hard version is more explicitly focused on organizational rationality, control, and profitability.[107] In response, it is argued that the stereotypes of hard and soft HRM are both inimical to ethics because they instrumentally attend to the profit motive without giving enough consideration to other morally relevant concerns such as social justice and human wellbeing.[108] However, there are studies indicating, long term sustainable success of organizations can be ensured only with humanely treated satisfied workforce [109][110][111]



Market, obviously, is not inherently ethical institution that could be led by the mythical 'invisible hand' alone; neither, it can be alluded that market is inherently unethical.[76] Also, ethics is not something that could be achieved through establishment of procedures, drawing codes of ethics, or enactment of law or any other heteronomous means, though their necessity could remain unquestioned.[112][113] However, though market need not be the cause of moral or ethical hazards it may serve an occasion for such hazards. The moral hazards of HRM would be on increase so much as human relations and the resources embedded within humans are treated merely as commodities.[114]

  • Discrimination issues include discrimination on the bases of age (ageism), gender, race, religion, disabilities, weight and attractiveness. See also: affirmative action, sexual harassment.
  • Issues arising from the traditional view of relationships between employers and employees, also known as At-will employment.
  • Issues surrounding the representation of employees and the democratization of the workplace: union busting, strike breaking.
  • Issues affecting the privacy of the employee: workplace surveillance, drug testing. See also: privacy.
  • Issues affecting the privacy of the employer: whistle-blowing.
  • Issues relating to the fairness of the employment contract and the balance of power between employer and employee: slavery,[115] indentured servitude, employment law.
  • Occupational safety and health.

All of the above are also related to the hiring and firing of employees. An employee or future employee can not be hired or fired based on race, age, gender, religion, or any other discriminatory act.


Date: 2015-12-24; view: 582


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