Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Recent unearthed financial scams of corporate India have again brought the issue of business ethics in limelight and people have started talking about it .The perception being built up among masses that business wealth and growth can be created only on the foundation of unethical practices, frauds, and malpractices is very dangerous for the economy and society at large. The scale of erosion of ethical business in Indian businesses in many cases is depressing. The measures for the correction in the perception have to be initiated by the top business leaders as captains of Industry as quickly as possible. It is good to strike when iron is hot.
When issue of business ethics or ethical work culture or ethical behaviour of employees is discussed, it is very intelligently reduced to the employees level only thereby stressing the responsibility of HR to build ethical work culture, defining the preferred ethical behaviours and so on but the necessity of flowing the values and beliefs of ethics from top is hardly put at the centre stage. Building ethical culture into business process and strategy by HR is one aspect and making business grow on the ethical foundation by the business leaders is another. Unless the business itself is built up on strong pillars of ethical values and beliefs, working for developing an ethical culture at employee's level will be a misnomer.
There is one more disturbing aspect of this whole episode. Whenever any financial scam in business is unfolded and it falls down in terms of reputation, brand value and profits, the first and foremost sufferers are the employees, be it in the case of kingfisher or Geetanjali, or Neerav Modi or any other. Employees are thrown on roads with no one there to ensure that their legal dues are paid, leave aside the future prospects of service. The unanswered question is why managers sitting at the helms of affairs in different departments of an unethical organisation don't speak up and stand up against the unethical practices? What stops them? Is it their loyalty to the organisation or mere self interest? Why don't they raise their level from mere an employee to the whistle blower in the organisation. It is yet to be seen that any CEO or HR or any top manager or financial head has raised their voice against the malpractices and step down at appropriate time or have done something to save the interest of poor low level employees barring one or two. On one side HR is consistently preached to become a strategic business partner and on the another side in many cases he is not empowered to have any say in business decisions securing the employees interest in organisation. Time is to ponder upon.
HR should not be a moot spectator and first one to fly away in aggravating situation in business leaving the employees in a lurch. It is to be seen that whether in unethical organisation he should act as custodian of business to save employer’s interest or act as champion of employees to secure their legitimate earnings.
Country's top management thinkers and HR practitioners have come together to answer few such questions in April 2018 cover story on Business ethics.