Unethical Corporate Behavior

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Business ethics are important but a new study shows that unethical corporate behavior is caused by a variety of factors. The global study was conducted by the Human Resource Institute (HRI) for the American Management Association (AMA). Review a survey summary at www.amanet.org/research.

Some 1,121 managers and HR experts participated in the study conducted with the AMA's affiliates and global partners. These groups included the Canadian Management Centre (Toronto), Management Center de Mexico (Mexico City), Management Centre Europe (Belgium), and AMA Asia (Japan). In their descending order, the top ten leading factors found in the AMS/HRI study were:

  1. Pressure from management or a Board of Directors to meet unrealistic business objectives or deadlines
  2. Furthering one's career
  3. Protecting one's livelihood
  4. Working in an environment with cynicism or diminished morale
  5. Improper training about, or ignorance that acts are unethical
  6. The lack of consequences
  7. The need to follow the boss's orders
  8. Peer pressure/desire to be a team player
  9. Desire to steal from or harm the organization
  10. Wanting to help the organization survive.

Edward T. Reilly, AMA's president and CEO said in a prepared statement, “Laws and regulations are, and will remain, the most influential external drivers of corporate ethics, but legislation is no substitute for the presence of leaders who support and model ethical behavior. Corporate leaders need to communicate ethical values throughout the organization, but they must do more than talk the talk in order to establish and sustain an ethical culture.”

According to the study, an ethical corporate culture can be ensured through the establishment of policies and processes such as:

  • Leadership support
  • Modeling of ethical behavior
  • Consistent communications from all leaders
  • Integration of ethics into corporate goals, processes, and strategies
  • Integration of ethics into performance management systems
  • Integration of ethics into the recruitment and employee selection process.

Keeping promises, encouraging open communication, keeping employees informed, and supporting employees who uphold ethical standards were positive ethical leadership behaviors according to the AMA/HRI study. A corporate code of conduct reflecting and reinforcing corporate values and principles was found to be most important as a specific program or practice. The other four responses in their descending order were:

  • Ethics training for all organization members
  • Corporate social responsibility programs
  • Ombudsman services
  • Helplines

Stress in the corporate environment can cause serious health problems although the stress response is meant to protect and support us, according to Helpguide.org. In caveman days, it might have been a truer “fight or flight” response, but today our bodies automatically go through the same processes in response to how we percieve events instead of actual threats.

Stress is classified as positive or negative, according to Helpguide.org. Positive stress is part of a natural reaction to challenge or danger by the body. Negative stress is experienced with physical, emotional, and relational symptoms when you feel out of control or under intense pressure.

Research demonstrates that 90 percent of illness is stress related according to Helpguide.org. When stressful situations continue over time, they can exhaust your immune system. Handling stress will allow us to carry on our daily lives better. Managing our reactions and minimizing any negative stress are the goal. The symptoms of negative stress are both physical and emotional:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Back, shoulder, and neck pain
  • Depression and moodiness
  • Tension or migraine headaches
  • Feeling out of control
  • Upset stomach
  • Phobias
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • High blood pressure
  • Substance abuse
  • Immune system suppression

We all have different stress coping skills. We may make different threat evaluations, deal with any situation differently, and may even label the same “stressful” situation differently. The important thing is we all should learn to cope with stress, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. If we always react negatively to stress-provoking situations, our health may suffer as a result. We can all learn to manage stress more effectively.

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