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									Ethical Perspectives in Employment Relations and Human
Resources Management

This module seeks to help students understand some basic core concepts of business
ethics and to provide them with descriptions of a sample of strategic ethical challenges in
current employment relations. The context is mainly contemporary and the focus is on
administrative and strategic issues which human resource (HR) professionals are likely to
face. Although there are some references to classical ethics models, the material and
presentation are more consistent with late twentieth-century thinking in business ethics.
     Thus, the principles of autonomy (of the individual and the group) are presented as
tempered by social and professional responsibilities which HR managers have toward
other workplace stakeholders. And generally "win-win" perspectives have been presented.
Certainly experience shows that permitting one side frequently to totally dominate, or
nearly destroy, others often just creates more long-term problems than it solves. And the
promotion of ethical positions that recognizes the virtue (whenever possible) in all parties,
may in fact promote more harmonious and productive long-term employment relations
and enhance quality and productivity.
     As noted in the student module, the main objectives of the ethical perspectives
module include helping students:
      To gain an appreciation of how ethical concerns arise within workplaces, and why
       ethical considerations must be addressed by those who manage human resources.
      To learn some basics about the nature of business ethics, primarily as viewed
       through contemporary Western perspectives, and to contrast ethics, morality, and
       religious beliefs.
      To note the impact of legal considerations, political correctness, good manners,
       and gender bias on understanding what might be differently considered to be
       ethical behavior in the workplace.
      To see that ethical employment conflicts arise between stakeholders, such as
       groups of employees and supervisors, and within such groups, for a variety of
       reasons including a total lack of ethics at work or because groups include
       individuals holding personal values based on different ethical standards.
      To learn how potential workplace conflicts, and ethical challenges for the HR
       professional, can arise in a wide variety of late twentieth-century daily
       administrative task and strategic decision-making areas including compensation,
       promotions, monitoring, discipline, safety, labor relations, and downsizing.
      To practice analyzing and confronting some ethical dilemmas which could
       potentially challenge HR professionals in two in-class application exercises, and
       in a sample of additional critical questions and further exercises.

The recommended readings list contains a sample of late twentieth-century books and
articles that address classic and contemporary ethical concerns in employment relations
from both academic and practitioner perspectives. There are numerous other excellent
texts in the library, and a growing literature of popular titles on business ethics can be
found in paperback in bookstores. Many of these interestingly examine how leading a
work organization with heart or soul or adapting the wisdom of ancient philosophers and
religions are necessary and practical in the contemporary business enterprise.

2            KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27

     Cavanagh's (1990) American Business Values provides an excellent overview on
historic and religious roots behind American business values, how business influences
personal values and moral judgements, and on contemporary ethical dilemmas in
business. Especially useful for assigning to students would be the chapter on how ethical
behavior, or its absence, affects the firm's performance and another on how to do
practical ethical analysis in today's business world. Schminke (1998) has edited an
academic volume titled: Managerial Ethics: Moral Management of People and Processes
which could be a useful text for HR classes. It includes chapters focused on key
theoretical issues like defining fairness and some which are more practitioner-oriented.
The discussions on privacy and electronic monitoring, employee selection, punishments,
and using facilitators could prove useful to HR students.
     In contrast, Solomon's (1997) It's Good Business: Ethics and Free Enterprise for the
New Millennium, and Dalla Costa's (1998) The Ethical Imperative: Why Moral
Leadership is Good Business, are popular books written for business managers and
executives. In numerous short chapters, Solomon addresses the importance of morality,
ethical analysis, and social responsibility to stakeholders and its relationship to profit
motives and corporate cultures. His practical discussions and checklists on how to know
when one is acting unethical and on rules for ethical thinking and problem solving might
usefully be distributed to students as handouts. Dalla Costa provides numerous insider
insights to the connection between the spiritual and the commercial and the relationship of
the increasingly global economy to ethical practices in big business. He seeks to present a
new model for global economic ethics and his suggestions on obstacles to change and
necessary steps for successful transformations are thoughtful.
     Four articles are included to provide a sampling of recent discussions in journals
which focus on, or frequently cover, business ethics. Dunfee and Werhane's (1997)
"Report on Business Ethics in North America" in the Journal of Business Ethics nicely
reviews the current state of American business ethics and a variety of challenges to
managerial integrity and stakeholders' interests. They include some HR issues including
diversity and ombudspersons but also discuss ethical concerns in investing, taxes,
regulatory responsibilities, and corporate codes of conduct. In contrast, Driscoll and
Hoffman (1998) briefly overview for Workforce how "HR Plays a Central Role in Ethics
Programs." They suggest that HR managers should take the lead addressing ethical
dilemmas and instituting successful business ethics standards and programs. While overly
short and simplistic this might effectively challenge new HR students to see their potential
importance in articulating a values-based culture at the workplace.
       Cunningham's (1998) "The Golden Rule As A Universal Ethical Norm," also from
the Journal of Business Ethics, is quite interesting. He reviews the Golden Rule and
related Christian and Mosaic thinking as well as ethical concepts found in Aristotle and
Confucius. The author attempts to show the practical applications of ethics within the
business world and some of the complexity of acting ethically. Minus' (1993) The Ethics
of Business in a Global Economy, is an older edited text which could be of assistance to
the teacher or students as it effectively contrasts European, Asian and American
approaches to business ethics. He has included chapters on Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish and
Christian perspectives, and his six business cases are worthy of study.
     Mishra and Spreitzer (1998) have addressed one interesting ethical issue in their
article entitled "Explaining How Survivors Respond to Downsizing: The Role of Trust,
Empowerment, Justice and Work Redesign." This somewhat complex and scholarly
article concerns the frequently contradictory reactions of survivors of downsizing
experiences. The authors present a typology of survivor responses and two usable
diagrams on survivors' responses and attitudes on justice and trust in management. Their
article was part of a special topics forum on trust in the Academy of Management Review.
KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27                                                                     3

The readings in the student module's Suggested Readings list are intended primarily as
background and follow-up readings. Students could be assigned, though, to read some
selections from those texts or one of the articles as is noted above. They then could be
asked to report on their impressions of the reading in a class session.
     Alternately, core concepts areas or some of the strategic issue areas could be
assigned to some or all of the students. They could be asked to come up with an example
of a problem in that topic area which they have experienced, or which they could easily
imagine might arise, in their HR careers. Additionally, students could be assigned one of
the Exercises such as contrasting legal and ethical arguments relating, for example, to
handling reasonable accommodation challenges, or they could be assigned to research and
conduct the suggested classroom debate.
     Students could, in addition or instead, be expected to come to class ready to discuss
some of the following student module's critical thinking questions which are addressed
below in the body of this module and in some of the readings:

1. What sort of differences would you expect to see expressed between an employee
   and employer if between them
      there was agreement on basic ethical questions? or
      there was not agreement on basic ethical questions?
2. What role might good manners play in the relationship between employees and
   between employers and employees?
3. How does the history of the relationship between workplace stakeholders affect the
   ethical perspectives that are adopted by these various parties?
4. What concrete emotions and behaviors might HR professions experience when they
   know that they, or their employer, have done something ethically wrong?
5. What practical rules might be written that could assist employees and employers to
   judge whether or not they were engaging in ethical thinking concerning workplace
6. What educational points might be emphasized in training aimed to upgrade the
   ethical behaviors of the varied stakeholders in the workplace?

The module can be taught in either a single three-hour class period (with one or two very
short breaks) or in two 90-minute sessions. Either way the first 90 minutes should be
used to discuss the core concepts and to briefly introduce at least a sample of the strategic
ethical issue areas. These issues are listed below as though almost all would be covered
with equal 5-minute time allocations. Undoubtedly a more interesting class session would
result if some areas were given greater attention, and others less, perhaps based on the
teacher's or students' interests and experiences. Hopefully the teacher would also be able
to provoke a discussion of some of the potential dilemmas (and possibly appropriate
responses) confronting HR professionals regarding some of these administrative and
strategic issues.
     The second 90 minutes should be devoted to having the students work in small
groups to discuss suggested questions and then report back on their application case
discussion. Obviously if both application cases are assigned more students can be
involved and the discussion should entail a more inclusive and wider variety of ethical
problems and perspectives. However, then the reports of the answers to the questions for
group discussion will need to be briefer (as is suggested below).
4              KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27

     Probably the two-session format would be preferable. It would allow for students
being asked to work on some of the suggested class assignments noted above. Such
reading and thinking should enliven the discussion and deepen the subsequent
sophistication of the application discussion and reports.
     At the end of this module is a set of transparencies which can be used or adapted for
teaching this topic. The overall sequence of the material, the potential transparencies (or
slides) available for use, and the suggested timing for the components of this module are
as follows:
       Introduction and Overview of Module           Slide    1          5 minutes
       Relation to the Frame                         Slide 2-3           5 minutes
       Contrasting Ethics, Morals & Laws             Slides 4-6        10 minutes
       Impact of PC, Manners, Religion & Gender      Slides 7-9        10 minutes
       Conflicts Between and Within Groups           Slide   10          5 minutes
       Introduction to Strategic Issues              Slide   11          5 minutes
       Selection and Promotion                       Slide   12          5 minutes
       Information Collection and Privacy            Slide   13          5 minutes
       Income Differentials                          Slide   14          5 minutes
       Punishments and Just Cause                    Slide   15          5 minutes
       Occupational Health and Safety                Slide   16          5 minutes
       Employee Involvement and QWL                  Slide   17          5 minutes
       Labor-Management Relations                    Slide   18        10 minutes
       Affirmative Action and Seniority              Slide   19          5 minutes
       Job Reductions and Creation                   Slide   20          5 minutes
       Application Case(s)
           Introduction and Set-up                                     10 minutes
           Small Group Discussions                                     40 minutes
           Light Duty Group Reports                                    15 minutes
           Work-family Conflicts Group Reports                         15 minutes
       Conclusion and Debrief                                          10 minutes


Teaching Notes
This section provides the instructor with a very brief guide of the issues that might be
addressed and some ideas on how to cover them. Then it lists the transparency slide(s)
that could be used to accompany each topic.
     The instructor should briefly overview what is to be covered in the module and list
for the students the key purposes and objectives of the session. These are both covered in
detail in the introductory section above and could be quickly summarized in lecture
format. If the instructor is comfortable enough with the topic she instead could lead the
students in a short discussion. This might involve asking students why they feel that
ethical perspectives are, or are not, important for the HR professional and the business
world, and then the teacher could add any key missing points. (Slide 1)
     One purpose of this segment is to provide the students with a connection of the ethics
discussion to the rest of the book. The transparency lists a couple of key points relating
KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27                                                                      5

ethical perspectives to each of the four HR roles discussed throughout the book. Some
additional commentary can be found in the student module to supplement the slide if
needed. (Slides 2-3)
      The discussion of the core concepts begins with definitions of ethics and morals,
which is included on the first slide in this section. Then the discussion, and the next slide,
contrasts ethics and morals. In the text of the student module some differences are
explained. Then some contrasts between law and ethics, which is noted on the following
transparency, is provided in the student's module. All of this could be covered in lecture
format based on the student text. But the session would probably work very well if the
instructor asked students questions. They might be asked whether or not they thought that
all of these concepts in theory or in their real life experiences were the same or not. They
could be asked to generate examples for each of the contrasts. Or a few examples pulled
from the discussion of the application cases could be posed for student reflection and
response. (Slides 4-6)
      The next three slides discuss the relationship to ethics of political correctness, good
manners, religions, and gender differences. The goal is to assist students to understand
the inter-relationships of all of these forces and their impact on employment relations.
Again, the teacher could cover this material in lecture format, but the additional posing of
some questions to the students might increase their interest in the topic. All of these
factors should be in the students' experience base, but they may not have thought about
their connection to each other or to the everyday business world. (Slides 7-9)
      This discussion seeks to clarify that conflicts at the workplace occur both between
different groups (such as between employees and supervisors or the union and the HR
department) and also within each group. The slide provides some examples on each of
these types of conflicts, as does the student text. The goal is also to highlight that
conflicts over what is or is not ethical can arise for varied reasons. (Slide 10)
      The instructor then needs to bridge the discussion from the core concepts to the
impact of ethics on the variety of both HR administrative and strategic issues in
employment relations. The slide summarizes a couple key points. It notes that there are
varied areas of HR responsibility where ethical conflict can occur, and the instructor
might provide examples from the text or ask the students to provide some. It also notes,
as does the student module, that ethical conflicts at work frequently can be described as
conflicts involving differential claims to individual, group, and organizational rights to
life, health, and safety; to liberty, privacy, and freedom; and of property and the pursuit of
happiness. These points could be covered via straight lecturing. Or instead they could be
raised by asking questions such as how workplace ethics does and does not correlate with
American citizenship rights. (Slide 11)
      There are nine slides that each cover one area of administrative tasks or strategic
decision-making where ethical conflicts might occur and an HR professional might assist
airing, mediating, or solving problems by addressing ethical perspectives. As is noted
above under Timing, the teacher may best give greater attention to just some of these
areas, perhaps based on the teacher's or students' experiences. And hopefully the teacher
will be able to provoke a discussion of some of the dilemmas and appropriate responses
in these areas. The first topic involves the selection and promotion of employees and
supervisors. The slide lists three areas to possibly discuss (i.e., job descriptions and
measurement fairness, pre-selection of winners, and caring person criteria) and the student
module provides some detail for lecture or to provoke student thinking. (Slide 12)
      The discussion on the rights of the employer to collect information versus employees'
rights to privacy and confidentiality tries to highlight a couple key areas where this
conflict can occur. Certainly other examples may be familiar to the students if they are
asked for examples, especially if they have already read other modules which discuss this
issue. The slide and the student module both note conflicts can occur over drug
monitoring, collecting performance data, screening for personality traits, and computer
and video surveillance. (Slide 13)
6            KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27

     The slide and text regarding income differentials cover an issue that is only partly
within the scope of a HR professional. Once one goes beyond the compensation and pay
structures of lower level employees within the firm and enters a discussion of ethical
disputes over gender-related discrimination and CEO pay the discussion is obviously
societal in both determination and its impact. But it is mentioned in the module because
the relationship of CEO pay to an individual employee's pay or to issues regarding
minimum wages or living wage ordinances can color how employees feel about their
employer and whether their pay level is fair or not. (Slide 14)
     This next segment covers an area that impacts on almost any HR professional. The
slide and text discuss how punishment conflicts entail what is procedural justice,
progressive and corrective discipline, and the seven tests of just cause standards. It also
notes that there have been recent court cases involving wrongful discharge exceptions to
employment-at-will. This area should be one where many students would have
experience and less lecturing and more discussion might be possible. (Slide 15)
     The safety slide suggests that at least four areas might be worth discussing with the
students including disputed worker's compensation claims. OSHA's general duty on
employers is noted as well as the conflicts concerning the use of cost-benefit analysis in
setting and enforcing safety standards and over the regulation of reproductive hazards.
The later involves potential conflict between protecting worker and progeny health versus
non-discrimination values. Once the core issues are explained students should easily be
able to relate to all of the competing and compelling interests and a fruitful discussion
should be possible to stimulate. (Slide 16)
     The discussion on employee involvement and quality of worklife enhancement seeks
to demonstrate that recent innovations and trends in employment relations are often in
response to past areas of workplace conflict. And it hopes to assist the students to realize
that today's innovations and solutions to past problems may cause new problems or still
serve as areas for ethical conflict. As noted in the student module, disputes can occur
over how work restructuring, quality improvements, and productivity are shared or not
and on their impact on employee job security and employment numbers. (Slide 17)
     The segment on labor relations covers a variety of areas where conflicts involve
ethical questions and perspectives. The discussion highlights that conflict continues in
the U.S. over employees’ rights to unionize versus those of the employer to operate non-
union, over union rights to collect dues or not versus the union's duty of fair
representation, and over union versus employer rights regarding strikes. It also notes that
collective bargaining processes involve ethical issues and that both traditional and
interest-based styles of bargaining entail ethical choices and have ethical impacts. (Slide
     Another area where there is a potential for conflict between two fairly clear ethical
and value-based positions in HR concerns affirmative action programs and seniority
principles. This might prove to be an area where students may have enough background
that once the issue is explained they may be able to relate to the competing interests and
conduct a fruitful discussion that demonstrates that ethical thinking is important in
employment relations. (Slide 19)
     The slide and student text on work force reductions and job creation efforts is
somewhat similar to that on income and compensation differentials. It is an area where
there are clearly competing, ethically valid perspectives. And it is an area where some
aspects of the issue are within the purview of the HR professional but some are well
beyond the HR department's decision-making but will have a real impact on its operation.
As the slide notes this area can involve labor-management disputes over redundancies or
responses such as retraining, and it is an area where a firm may conflict with the
community. The segment notes that public sector privatization is similar in some
respects. And it suggests that employers, unions, and communities may be able to work
together on both humane downsizing and on job creation efforts. (Slide 20)
KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27                                                                        7

     There are no transparencies for the application cases, which are discussed in detail
below. Nor is there a slide for the debrief and conclusion. The student module provides
commentary that should be sufficient to assist the instructor to construct a concluding set
of remarks.

Discussion of Application Case Studies
The application cases are intended to help the students connect the discussion of the core
concepts and the strategic ethical issues with their sense of real life situations which
potentially face HR professionals. Hopefully the discussion and reports on the cases will
assist students to better understand the complexity of ethical considerations presented
throughout the module as well as clarify the relevance to their careers.
     There are not exactly any right or wrong answers, although there are some legal
requirements involved in the application cases. Nor should the discussions, hopefully,
lead the students to simply supporting one party's positions and interests over others.
Instead it should be obvious from the cases that there are multiple ethically legitimate
perspectives and interests that might need to be addressed by the HR department and that
conflicts need to be aired, mediated, or resolved. Therefore the discussions below only
suggest how a teacher might structure the classroom exercises and they seek to raise some
points that one might want to emphasize to assist the students to resolve the ethical
Application 1: Light Versus Regular Duty Work
As noted in the Student Module, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) brought to
the attention of HR professionals their responsibility to address the needs of employees
with various types of potential work restrictions and limitations. The ADA requires
employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" for their employees who have certain
types of handicaps or limitations that can be addressed within the workplace. Profitability
remains a legitimate employer concern, though, and the ADA has been interpreted to
protect the right of the employing firm to accommodate individual employee needs while
remaining profitable and not encountering undue economic hardship. The ADA does not,
however, explain how all resultant ethical dilemmas should be addressed.
     The intention of this application case is to clarify that there are at least three or four,
and if the employees are unionized then five, different and ethically legitimate
perspectives from which one might view the dilemmas entailed in a light duty conflict.
This dilemma involves the implications of assigning someone to perform the lighter duty
work, rather than their regular work which is somehow physically or mentally
challenging, which displaces a current employee from their regular job.
     One perspective is obviously that of the employee who is no longer able to perform at
the same level of physical or mental stress and strain that had been possible previously
because of a job-related injury. The employer, following its understanding of the ADA,
places the employee who was injured on the job on an easier and lighter duty assignment
which she can perform. But does the employer also need to consider the interests of the
second employee who will be displaced by the first person from their regular job? This
second employee is being reassigned to a currently open, but more physically difficult
and, perhaps, even lower paying job at the firm. A third perspective is that of the HR
department, which has the responsibility to enforce the law, but also hopefully serve as an
educator or mediator and try to find a reasonable and fair answer to the dilemma. As
question number 4 implies there may also be a unique perspective and role for immediate
supervisors of these two employees. And if the employees are represented by a labor
union, then a fifth perspective is also involved as the employer has some responsibilities
to bargain in good faith with the union while still meeting its ADA legal duties.
     As is suggested above in the Lesson Timing discussion, the instructor will need to
decide if both this and the second application case are going to be used and therefore
determine how she wants to divide up the students. Regarding both cases the teacher will
8             KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27

need to introduce the problem(s) and answer a few questions before dividing the class
into the small groups to discuss the case(s) and the questions. For this light duty case the
instructor could divide the class randomly into small equally sized groups and have each
group answer all 6 of the questions listed below and in the Student Module. Or the
instructor could assign to different groups just a couple of the questions or have them
discuss all but only report their discussion on one or two of the items.
     If the teacher feels comfortable with a more complex discussion design, some groups
could be assigned to assume the persona of the first employee while others would focus
on the perspective of the second employee, and another group would be the HR
professional, and another perhaps even a union representative. Another somewhat
complex design would have groups meeting for awhile trying to represent one of the
above perspectives and then after a certain pre-determined amount of time the teacher
would mix up the groups so that each one would have at least one student representing a
different perspective. Regardless of the design, the following comments are offered to
help the instructor prepare the students or guide the student responses to the questions.
Discussion of Group Discussion Questions
1. What is a fair solution to this ethical dilemma?

    This question obviously has no simple answer. The reason for asking it is to start the
    students talking and then realizing there are several legitimate perspectives that need to
    be addressed. They should quickly see that in creating any solution that seeks to be fair
    there will be a variety of questions to address. Thus the students might want to
    determine: what does it mean to be fair and to whom is a duty of fairness owed? Clearly
    it seems the employer under ADA must provide employment to the injured employee that
    she can perform, but do they need to move the second employee to another assignment or
    could they both perform the same task and then hire another person? Or could the
    employer post a new position opening, which might result in a promotion for another
    person? Or could the employer move the second employee but keep him at his original
    rate of pay? Or could these two employees rotate and share both of the jobs? And how
    much cost (in wages, training and so forth) should the employer have to bear? Many
    other questions and solutions might likely be offered by the students which should be
    instructive to contemplate.

2. Does the injured employee have a special ethical claim because it was a workplace-
   caused event?

    Most students will probably feel that the employer does have more of an ethical
    responsibility because of the work causation. The ADA law though does not actually
    make this stipulation. But if many feel there is a special ethical claim, does it matter if
    the employee was partly or completely to blame for the injury due to horseplay or
    carelessness? Again, the law (i.e., most Worker's Compensation statutes) doesn't require
    an employee to be blameless to have a claim to such compensation, but in terms of ethics
    probably many Americans likely would see a difference. This question thus should help
    students see that legal and ethical standards are not always the same.

3. Does the displaced employee have an ethical right to any special redress since he or
   she was not the cause of the problem?

    Again, legal rights to one's job and ethical claims to such are not necessarily identical. If
    the displaced employee worked in almost any non-union American firm they would be
    considered an at-will employee with no certain rights to any particular job, classification,
    or pay rate. Moving them from one job to another at whatever rate of pay the employer
    felt was justified would be the employer's prerogative. Certainly the impact on the firm's
    compensation structure and on morale though would be of concern to the HR
KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27                                                                              9

    professional. And if the employee was dissatisfied they could complain, quit, or try to
    form a union. But ethically, many Americans may believe that an employee does have a
    moral claim to their job if, for example, they have held it a long time, or if they have done
    it very well or without ever causing significant quality, productivity, or discipline
    problems. The intent of the question is to provoke students to think about the varied
    perspectives and the rationales for the positions that different parties might take to this

4. Do either of the employees' supervisors, in addition to the HR department, have a
   special role in addressing the question?

    Probably the supervisors would be asked their evaluations of the employees' abilities,
    attitudes, and work records. But they may or may not be very involved in the final
    decision-making. And this could have a significant impact on how well the reassigned
    employee(s) are trained or eventually perform their new jobs and on the work groups'
    morale concerning the changes. The students hopefully will see that these supervisors
    represent another perspective that has a unique ethical claim that has a practical
    significance worth taking into account.

5. Would it matter if the workplace were unionized or not?

    As noted in question number 3 above, most non-union workers are considered to be at-
    will employees. As such they do not have any right to their current job or current pay
    rate -unless an employee handbook provided such a promise; but almost none make such
    assurances. American unions, however, typically negotiate contract clauses that speak to
    worker's job classification and seniority rights. And the National Labor Relations Act
    requires that employers bargain in good faith with unions over such topics. But, adding
    to the complexity, a legal conflict between a union seniority clause and the ADA likely
    would be settled in favor of the law and not the contract. Thus there probably would
    need to be an accommodation of the injured employee but the employer would still need
    to bargain in good faith with the union and not violate the contract as much as possible.
    Therefore, the answer is it would matter but the HR professional would have to be
    responsive to a somewhat complicated set of both the legal and contract responsibilities.

6. Are there other stakeholders, perspectives, or issues that must be taken into account?

    To summarize the above discussion, there might be said to be at least two employees'
    perspectives to address, along with that of their supervisors, and if the employees belong
    to a union it needs to be bargained with, and there is the role of the HR department. The
    students may also suggest co-workers in the two affected departments, employees'
    families, an insurance company for the firm, a judge or arbitrator if the case is grieved or
    litigated, or maybe some significant others. The above comments also suggest that
    workforce morale and productivity concerns might all be important to consider when
    fashioning an approach to this problem.

Application 2: Work-Family Conflicts
The Student Module notes that in the late twentieth century, HR staff and supervisors,
workers, their families, and helping professionals like social workers, became interested
in how firms and workers handle the imbalances and conflicts of work and family
responsibilities. A variety of ethical and practical problems arise for employees,
supervisors, and HR departments who try to ignore child- and elder-care, parental and
family leave, and overtime problems. Whether or not solutions like work sharing or
relaxed Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) usage solve the problems for the
employees, serve to ensure better attendance, or minimize intrusions of family concerns at
work will involve the HR professional in addressing ethical and legal considerations.
10            KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27

     In this application case the students are asked to study the listed questions and to
think about the panorama of corporate, HR, supervisor, helping professional, and
employee stakeholder perspectives. They are asked to analyze work-family conflicts from
the varied perspectives and to brainstorm potential visions for solving the problems of
juggling work, family, and personal spheres. As with the first application case, students
should be able to see that there are several ethically legitimate perspectives and interests
that might need to be addressed by HR staff and perhaps the conflicts can be effectively
aired, mediated, or resolved.
     As is suggested above, the instructor will need to decide if both this and the first case
are going to be used and therefore determine how she wants to divide up the students.
Again the teacher will need to introduce the problem and answer a few questions before
dividing the class into the small groups to discuss the case and the questions. For the
work-family conflict case the instructor could divide the class randomly into small equally
sized groups and have each group answer all of the questions listed. Or she could assign
to different groups different perspectives or just a couple of the questions, etc., as is noted
in the above discussion of the first case. Again regardless of the design, the following
comments are offered to help the instructor think about, guide, or summarize the student
responses to the questions.
Discussion of Group Discussion Questions
1. What conflicts regarding work-family responsibilities are most likely to be manifest
   and/or be discussed at the workplace?

     The intent here is to start the students talking and then realizing there are a variety of
     possible problems and perspectives that need to be addressed by the HR staff. Most
     students should be able to relate to child care problems and some may understand that
     providing care and assistance to spouses or parents can be a problem for some workers
     too. Depending on the students' experiences they may also understand how excessive
     overtime or work stress can cause family problems which eventually will circle back and
     affect the workplace too. They should also quickly see that problems in work attendance,
     tardiness, safety, morale, quality or performance are all likely manifestations of these
     work-family conflicts. Hopefully the discussion will provoke the students to see how
     common these conflicts can be and that simply trying to ignore the problem or treating
     only the symptoms, such as merely disciplining employees for absences, may be
     ineffective if not counter-productive.

2. What are the major concerns that one might hear expressed by each of the key
   stakeholders who have an interest in how work-family conflicts are addressed by

     The students should be able to come up with a variety of concerns for each perspective if
     they are able to empathize with the varied roles. The instructor thus may want everyone
     to think about all of these roles or have sub-groups assigned to really probe just one or
     two of the stakeholder's interests.

     a. Employees might complain about excessive overtime if they have family
     responsibilities to which they can't properly respond. Alternately they might talk about
     the stress of handling family health problems. Or they might complain about the firm's
     attendance policies if they have received discipline.

     b. Their families might complain about the absence of the employee from home or about
     the employee bringing work home to complete or bringing excessive work concerns to
     the home life.
KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27                                                                                 11

       c. Immediate supervisors likely would note if there have been attendance, tardiness,
       safety, morale, quality, or performance problems in their departments.

       d. HR department staff would likely have the same list as the supervisors but might see
       the problems in terms of departments or classifications and not only as problems
       involving individual employees.

       e. Union representatives would be affected if employees have been disciplined or if
       grievances have been filed regarding overtime, discipline, or safety complaints.

       f. Helping professionals might be brought into the situation by the firm or by individuals
       who are complaining about some of these problems and their perspective may be affected
       by that relationship.

3. What are the likely ethical positions (i.e., moral or legal arguments) one might expect
   to hear expressed by each of these stakeholders?

       The students should be able to see that the various parties likely will discuss the conflicts
       primarily from the perspective of an individual (whether that of the employee or a
       supervisor) who has problems (or a problem employee) or from an organizational
       dilemma point of view. They may see the issues as involving violations of legitimate (or
       not) employer rules or as violations of employee FMLA or contractual rights if the
       employees are unionized. The ethical positions thus might entail legal and rule-based
       arguments or ethical comments about what is really fair or about justifications for the

4. What potential solutions or experimental programs could be created to address some
   of these conflicts?

       Hopefully the students will be able to brainstorm a list of potential solutions. These will
       likely include suggestions that the HR staff better address its programs for counseling and
       disciplining troubled employee. Some may suggest that they also should better educate
       the supervisors about how to anticipate or respond to work-family problems. Solutions at
       the organizational level might involve allowing more liberal FMLA leave usage or
       having the employer seek to reduce mandatory overtime. Perhaps some students may
       suggest that the firm experiment with job sharing or redesigning some jobs or work areas
       to reduce stress or safety problems.

Discussion of Critical Thinking Questions
1. What sort of differences would you expect to see expressed between an employee
   and employer if between them
         there was agreement on basic ethical questions? or
         there was not agreement on basic ethical questions?

       If there are areas of values agreement, discussion should more easily focus on each
       party's real interests in workplace disputes and not on personal attitudes or attacks toward
       each other. Once questions of values and ethics are resolved, differences over pay, work
       rules, or vacation scheduling, for example, should be easier to directly address.
       Conversely, if there was not a basic agreement on the ethical foundation for negotiations,
       real differences could not be discussed or resolved. Good faith negotiations or
       bargaining cannot usually take place if the stakeholders do not value the other side or
       have any respect for the other party’s interests.
12             KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27

2. What role might good manners play in the relationship between employees and
   between employers and employees?

     Good manners and civility are important in workplaces and in any stable functioning
     society. Negotiations over stakeholder disputes and disagreements can be resolved much
     more efficiently and humanely when good manners are exercised. As an overlay for
     relationships, good manners and agreement on the definition of good manners can help
     create a less hostile or destructive workplace environment.

3. How does the history of the relationship between workplace stakeholders affect the
   ethical perspectives that are adopted by these various parties?

     Frequently, the history of the relationship between the parties can continue to affect their
     interactions for years; maybe it lasts for awhile even after one or both of the parties have
     left the firm or died. If they historically had a good and productive working relationship,
     employment disputes usually can be addressed comparatively readily and the historic
     relationship can act as a bridge between the parties' competing interests. When the
     relationship has been historically negative, with a lack of trust, or suspicions regarding
     the ethics, or lack thereof, of one side for the other, negotiating can be quite difficult.
     This can cause extreme problems between employers and employees and can affect the
     bottom line. Some of these issues are quite effectively discussed by Cavanagh.

4. What concrete emotions and behaviors might HR professionals experience when they
   know that they, or their employer, have done something ethically wrong?

     Many individuals know they've done something ethically wrong when they get frequently
     defensive and belligerent with their colleagues or subordinates. Others find themselves
     constantly inventing excuses and scapegoats for projects and events that didn't go quite
     right. Sometimes people find themselves having trouble sleeping or relaxing, often feel
     guilty, or drink alcohol or take drugs more regularly. These and many other common
     signs, like not being able to look others in the eye, are mentioned by Solomon.

5. What practical rules might be written that could assist employees and employers to
   judge whether or not they were engaging in ethical thinking concerning workplace

     Several of the recommended readings address practical aspects of workplace ethical
     thinking, and both Cavanagh and Cunningham suggest how to do practical ethical
     analysis in today's business world. Solomon wrote a chapter listing eight crucial rules for
     thinking ethically. He includes considering other's well being, thinking as a member of
     society and groups and not just individually, obeying the law and moral rules, being
     objective, and the importance of respecting others' beliefs and customs.

6. What educational points might be emphasized in training aimed to upgrade the
   ethical behaviors of the varied stakeholders in the workplace?

     Dealing with upgrading the ethical understanding of individuals or groups obviously can
     be quite complicated and potentially emotional, and the HR professional should be most
     careful. To some individuals, being asked to attend training on business ethics would be
     quite insulting. And for some, terms like ethics sound impractical and of interest to only
     those in ivory towers not in contact to the real worlds of work, money, or employment
     relations. It may be therefore necessary to approach the question of ethics training very
     tactfully, and perhaps it should be addressed by focusing on potential conflicts that could
     occur in some of the strategic topic areas discussed in the text. As the individuals learn
     together, ethical concepts, dilemmas and problem-solving can then be addressed. Many
KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27                                                                             13

    points in the Cavanagh, Solomon, and Dalla Costa books might be usefully employed in
    designing such training.

Discussion of Exercises
1. Visit the library and check out Rerum Novarum, the 1891 Encyclical Letter of Pope
   Leo XIII on the Condition of Labor (or Pope Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno of
   1931). Briefly look at how they addressed the rights and responsibilities of workers
   and owners regarding each other, unions, strikes, private property, just wages, or
   economic harmony. Consider whether or not any of the ideas and advice is relevant
   to HRM professionals for analyzing contemporary strategic issues in business ethics.

    This is intended to be a fun and easy assignment, which can provide a concrete example
    of how religions attempt to speak on ethical concerns in employment relations.
    Obviously if the teacher is interested in the topic several or all of the students could be
    given copies of Papal excerpts and be asked to report back to the next class on some
    selected points noted in the exercise description. Or such excerpts could be used as part
    of an examination question. The language in the encyclicals is obviously arcane and
    responsive to labor conflicts and conditions that existed long ago. It is interesting,
    though, how timely some of the discussion is for contemplating contemporary issues in
    North America and certainly throughout the globe.

2. Consult HRM and LIR web sites and serial publications that discuss recent agency
   and court decisions. One can link to numerous excellent sites (such as the NLRB's or
   Runkel's Memos) from the MSU LIR Library's page. And
   one can profitably look at, for example, BNA's Bulletin to Management and Fair
   Employment Practices publications. Study some of the full decisions, or the
   summaries, on varied topics such as religious discrimination, reasonable
   accommodation, good faith bargaining, or sexual harassment. Consider what ethical
   arguments, in addition to legal ones, might be offered for each side of these
   employment disputes. Consider whether an HRM professional could have helped
   mediate any of the disputes instead of seeing them go to litigation.

    This exercise is intended to utilize many HR students' interest in surfing the Internet. The
    MSU LIR web-site provides an excellent starting point for investigating a wide variety of
    legal and ethical employment relations problems across the Internet. A teacher could use
    this assignment to challenge students to see what ethical language and arguments are
    involved in a variety of employment disputes and to decide whether or not, and how, they
    might mediate such conflicts. Certainly problems involving opposing stakeholder
    interests, such as are listed in the exercise above, should prove fertile ground for HR
    students to identify the positions and interests of parties. As noted, various articles from
    BNA serials and other publications could be distributed or be assigned for student study
    or examination instead of, or in addition, to the web sites.

3. Classroom debate: Be it resolved that concern with ethical considerations within the
   context of employment relations can be more of a hindrance than an asset for meeting
   the needs of various workplace stakeholders.

    Instructions: To conduct the debate, two teams of three or four students should be
    chosen and expected to take approximately two hours of non-class time in preparation.
    After the teams have been chosen, a one week delay in preparation would be reasonable.
    Each side, one pro and one con, should have its members make a basic three minute
    presentation. After these presentations, the balance of the debate, following traditional
    rules, should take approximately 30 minutes, followed by one representative from each
    team being permitted a maximum five-minute period for closing remarks.
14             KOSSEK/BLOCK Module 27

     The debate has several potential values. It could provide students an opportunity to do
     independent research on the topic and to speak in the classroom. Also it should provoke
     students to consider whether or not they feel that ethical thinking is actually of
     importance at work and what they think happens when it is or is not addressed in
     employment relations. (Several of the recommended readings directly speak to this issue
     and could be assigned or suggested.) And the debate could expose the students to
     positions they may not have ever considered. It is important that the individuals chosen
     to participate be verbal and have good research skills and that the instructor is ready to
     end the debate if it is too lopsided or reaches a level of diminishing returns. And it is
     important at the debate's conclusion that the teacher elicits feedback from the students
     who were observers. Questions should be posed seeking positive and constructive
     remarks about the presentations and the issues.

Testing Material
A formal test could be created based on the key points highlighted in the transparencies
and in the text. In addition, some of the critical thinking questions, noted above and in
the Student Module, could be the basis for designing essay questions in an examination.

Transparency Masters
Transparency masters can be created from the PowerPoint presentation slides that
accompany this module.

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