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The case of business ethics in the digital work world



Jayshree Dutt


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A well - managed ethical conduct in the workplace encourages a culture of making decisions based on ethics. During turbulent times, a strong ethical culture guides an organisation in the right direction to manage any imminent and unavoidable conflict.

In today's world of instant reporting, and the resultant near - instant debate across social media and other internet channels, business ethics have become not just a matter of morality, but a make-or-break element of a business' public image.

The significance of business ethics has been talked about from ages and it reaches far beyond employee loyalty and morale of the business and its people. The reputation of a business determines whether it is a worthwhile investment for the investors and job-seekers, alike.

While following, ethical practices is not easy. Technology is further creating new challenges on the ethical business front. As the growing salience of big data creates issues around privacy, and technology break barriers of contact and data accessibility, globally, it is challenging for organisations and more specifically for HR to maintain business ethics.

Considering that businesses involves people, the case of business ethics is a complex one, add to that a scenario where man and machine are/will be working together makes this whole concept of ethics even more intricate. Technology present a special challenge for business ethics because they are impervious not only to consumers but also to managers and corporate executives. A report on SAGE quotes the Volkswagen example where the company publicly admitted in August 2015 that it had installed software in 11 million diesel automobiles designed to deceive emissions tests, the public remains in the dark about just who was responsible.

While it is not yet known, who was behind the decision to deploy deceptive software, it is growing clear that the company is paying a huge price for the scandal when Volkswagen reported its first quarterly loss in at least 15 years, its CEO was forced to resign and five high - ranking executives were suspended. The company faces an uncertain number of fines and lawsuits that experts expect to run into the billions of dollars.Volkswagen is not alone in embedding legally or ethically questionable practices in complex technologies. The Internet is perforated with software with hidden functionality.

More recent case of PNB fraud also points a big finger on how ethical practices are build and followed on ground. In fact, Finance minister Arun Jaitley blamed inadequate oversight by regulators and auditors as well as sloppy bank management for the Rs 11,400-crore fraud at PNB, and said if needed law would be tightened to punish fraudsters. He stated that unethical behaviour in lender - borrower relation must end, the industry needs to get into the habit of doing ethical business, while addressing the Economic Times Global Business Summit 2018.
The finance minister also argued that cases like PNB fraud, in which jeweller Nirav Modi, along with his uncle Mehul Choksi, duped the bank of Rs. 11,400 crore, affects the ease of doing business in the country.

While the business ethics situation is complex, globally, it is not that it cannot be handled.

Industry experts argue that whistle-blower safeties for private-sector employees need to be improved, because employees are more likely to take a stand against unethical behaviours if they don't fear losing their jobs, thus.

However, the biggest responsibility to maintain business ethics lies with the HR. Global researches also points that HR has a significant role to play in keeping up the business values, principles and ethics.

To begin with it should start with the organization's selection process (interviews, tests, background checks, references, etc.) - they should be used to weed out ethically undesirable applicants.

Although this is not a simple task, various personality tests are available to assess a candidates' trustworthiness, honesty, and integrity.

Technology is not the only force affecting business ethics today. But it is at the heart of many of the toughest ethical issues.

Right now, there are guidelines for many aspects of research and technology diffusion, but serious gaps in our ability to monitor adherence or hold bad actors accountable.

While we cannot control technology and innovation, what we can do is - 'adapt and change'. The role of ethics in technology is of managing rather controlling the same. Continuous monitoring is required to keep track of latest innovations and technological changes and for ensuring fair practices at work and workplace.