Importance of morality

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Summary of chapter 'Individual morality in organisations' from ',Managing Values and Beliefs in Organisations' by Tom McEwan

The summarised chapter can be divided into 2 main parts. First one study the influence of morality on the ethical studies. Second one show how great is the influence of moralities, and gives us examples of problems, as a result of them.

In order to study the ethics in organisation, author of this book discredit surveying people about their opinions and experiences, In order to have the objective view on these statistics he tries to first examine the employee, and what was the reason of his positive/negative attitude.Often the review of the company, by employee has nothing to do with current situation. It is extremely influenced by the character of the person, and to be more exact, by that his/her view of civil liberties and moral rights being abused by the co-workers or managers. What is most important, the latter is not usually checked during the interview, which results in great misunderstanding between the organisation and the employee. So when we could know that the person asked, gives us reliable feedback?

In order to answer this question, Tom has specified first, what is the character of the person. According to Clouse, it is ’a person’s pattern of behaviour related to the moral qualities of self-discipline and social responsibility’. According to the research of Kohlberg and Gilligan, it is formed into early childhood, but developed throughout adulthood. So coming back to topic, how we can distinguish if the people’s opinion is right or wrong?

According to the research by Hartshore and May that was performed on nearly 11,000 children of between 11 and 16 years of age it has nothing to do with the character lessons, or religion. The tested kids were provided with the tests, and during some of the they had great ability to cheat. What is more, there was a wallet laying on tables that could have been easily taken. The weren’t however any fixed rules, so the children didn’t know if some behaviour is acceptable or not. After the summary of the results, the scientists came to the several conclusions:
- to the some extent every child showed not ‘morally’ acceptable behaviour
- the amount of cheats, or theft of money relies greatly on the supervision
- the children from ‘better homes’, and the cleverer ones, less likely did these things
The researches concluded, that the more intelligent children consider the private sense of ‘shame’, and ‘loss of face’, greater that the value of received profits. That fact brings us to the first conclusion: we cannot separate ethical problems from the human factor. When we assume that the individual employer or manager is duty bound to ensure, that the employees receive what they were entitled by employment contract, and the individual has to fulfil his/her duties, we can see that the mismatch within the employee’s, and the supervisor’s morality(intelligence) results into ethical issue. It may lead to the situation, that the employee will use the lack of supervision to cheat, or supervision will exploit other members of the stuff. These ethical issues cannot be repaired by any other external factor, because they appear naturally in these situations.

The next part of the chapter is about avoiding above problems, and the outcomes of them. In order to avoid them we have to assume that both parties will display ‘good’ character. Good character means, that the person holds to his belief and principles, but can also adjust to other’s opinions (integrity). In case the people that are working with each other, do not show the similar morality, and ‘goodness’, we have to find way to omit the problematic situations.
The best way to do it is to set ‘moral rights’. The Green in his  ‘The ethical manager’ divides them into 2 groups: negative rights - impose restraints on other people, and positive rights - achieved without direct efforts of other individuals. Positive rights are for example: the right to food and drink, work, education etc. In the cases of these rights, we cannot observe any moral issues, because they do not impose any restrictions. However the topic of negative rights is vastly different. They are for example: the right to life, to personal freedom, free speech and so on. The problem is that, every person should have these rights, but often in companies, and other institutions exist malfunctions, because parties are putting to much limitation on each other, due to the different moralities. The person often doesn’t realise the scale of the problem, because he justifies herself, with these rights. The author in this point brings up the example of this problem, existing on the level of nations.

When someone want to have the right to his invention (right to property), he has to keep it in secret(right to free speech), or bring it to the public, but it will be sheltered by country’s law (right to process and a fair trial). In European Union, and USA such model in majority of cases works. However, when we take the China into the consideration, situation changes. Companies there often do not care for the intellectual property due to the cultural and system differences. These differences again, are a direct result of morality, which is vastly different between cultures. There is not clear way of solving this problem, because people having one morality, will try to propose solution, that satisfies only them. So implementing any solution would have a small impact on whole situation. Both sides have to propose the solution that will work for them, and takes into consideration the morality of other side.

In the end, the author touches also the topic of ‘whistleblowing’. The ‘whistleblowing’ is the situation in which the employee are exposing confidential information of the company with outside world. Tom McEwans points, that reason of this situation is often the differences of moralities. He brought the case study of air planes company, in which one of employee found several safety malfunctions. From one side, the revealing of the information closed the company, and thousands of people lose their job, on the other, the employee realised that in one point there will be plane crash. The writer, shows that the direct evaluation of validity of the ‘whistleblowing’ is very difficult. No one can really say, if the safety malfunctions would result in crash or not, but as a result hundreds of families, lost one source of income. He gives so several advices and step you should take before ‘whistleblowing’ in order to have the clear mind, and no regrets of the, often unexpected, results.


Adam W.

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