Ethics in Human Resource Management - Research Paper Sample

6 pages
1483 words
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Human resource management (HRM) is where individuals are systematically managed in order to attain the desired objectives. To achieve a strategic edge, it is paramount to manage the people resources (Greenwood 562). It helps a company to meet its strategic goals and satisfaction of the individual staff needs. All HRM practices are founded on ethics. It is the employers responsibility to offer a conducive environment to employees for them to maximize their potential. Despite the proper appreciation of HRM, there is a strong perception in the corporate world that emphasizes that businesses should be concerned with ethics. The academic discussion on business ethics primarily focuses on the social and ecological duties of firms within the society. Ethics are regarded as a critical component in the external presentation as well as public perception of companies. However, this knowledge of ethics being an external component is outrightly wrong. As stated by Greenwood (563), ethics is becoming a more internal concern for companies. Hence, this research paper considers the aspects of ethics in HRM and sketches the ethical concerns and ethical approaches in HRM.

Business Ethics and HRM

Greenwood (564) urges that ethics is a branch of philosophy which focuses on the issues that relate to morality. That is concepts like right or wrong, fairness, and righteousness as well as good and bad. In business, ethics deals with the level and extent of morality to be utilized in a business environment (Greenwood 564). Ethics is becoming wider in the present society. HRM is concerned with a variety of ethical concerns that are crucial for making business-related decisions. Before any decision is made in a work environment, various alternatives that cater for the needs of business must be checked, and their influence on the lives of the staff must be considered. Business ethics emphasizes on the social and ecological duties of firms within a community. Most companies are embracing ethical leadership. As earlier indicated, ethics is considered as the most significant internal concern for business. Before, employees interests were not put into consideration. But now, it is the responsibilities of enterprises to manage the interests of its labor ethically.

Ethical Concerns in HRM

Although ethical issues frequently arise in human resource management, it has been given a marginal significance in academic debates. Some of the major ethical issues that organization deals with while handling the workforce include equal opportunity, privacy, compensation, and skills, labor costs as well as fair working conditions (Greenwood 356).

Equal Opportunity

HR managers are mandated to continuously monitor the hiring practices of their firms to ensure the recruitment process does not discriminate anyone based on sexual orientation, gender or ethnic background. However, meeting the requirements of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not guarantee ethical behavior (Greenwood 356). For instance, if a human resource manager suggests a recruit so that he or she can fill a quota, the choice is unethical since it will lock out other candidates that might be more qualified.


Privacy is often a sensitive matter in human resources. Though the culture of a company may be open, friendly and motivates the workforce to share their details and lifestyles freely, HR managers have the ethical duty to keep such matters as private and confidential. It specifically comes into practice when competing firms call for reference to an employee (Greenwood 356). To demonstrate ethical behavior, HR managers must stick with details that are related to the job and leave out knowledge of the workers personal life.

Compensation and Skills

HR managers are obliged to propose pay for staffs. Despite the fact that the suggestions might be founded on salary range appointed to each position in the firm, ethical situations emerge with regards to offering a different remuneration to similar skills. For instance, a profoundly wanted executive might have the capacity to bargain for a higher pay than a person who has been with the organization for more time. This can be a moral issue when the old existing employee comes to learn of the error and questions if the distinction depends on ethnic foundation or sexual orientation. Therefore, it is important for HRM to handle the ethical issues and legal issues from the regulation of EEOC while hiring (Greenwood 356).

Labor Costs

In a work environment, HR managers have to cope with different needs to lower the cost of labor. As indicated by Greenwood (358), ethics is applied when the manager must choose between getting labor from nations with minimal wages and compensating competitive salaries. Even though it is legal to outsource labor from other countries, this issue may result in public relations problems if customers reject the use of underpaid employees to save money.

Fair Working Conditions

Firms are fundamentally expected to offer fair workplace for their workers. Consequently, being responsible for employees treatment implies incurring increased labor costs. Decent pay and benefits for workers are common elements of a fair workplace condition. Also, provision of non-discriminatory work environment is another factor that may have costs due to training and diversity management (Greenwood 361).

Ethics and Values in HRM

Organizations are bound by law to treat the people they recruit equally and not to victimize any of them. Scott (215) characterizes legislation as a codification of acknowledged good acts which direct ethics within a society. Nonetheless, fitting in with every legal necessity does not suggest the best treatment for the workforce. The law might be unfair; that is, it may not cover every consequence, and it may not offer a clear manual for activities. Morals and profound quality are frequently used conversely in analyzing right and wrong (Scott 215). Ethics is applied to individuals while morality is applied to the acts and behaviors. Philosophy presents the nature of morality and ethics and offers a set of tools that can be used to evaluate and explore morality in HRM. They include consequentialist, non-consequentialist approaches and stakeholder analysis.

Consequentialist Approach: Utilitarianism

This approach was advanced in 1748-1832 by Jeremy Bentham and John Suart Mill 1802-1873. The concepts premise believes that moralities of actions are determined by the consequences (Scott 217). Individuals have to do things that would result in greatest utility to the majority impacted by a given issue. For example contractors in the military may be asked for ransoms for a kidnapped employee. Therefore, the military may appeal to the utilitarian argument to save their employee. In utilitarianism, income disparities or prejudice may be justified by maximizing the good for the majority. That is, ethically hostile acts might be approved by utilitarianism.

Non- Consequentialist/ Deontological Approach

The concept was developed by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kants objective was to set up an arrangement of total ethical rules, advanced through the utilization of reason (Khan 65). An action is considered morally right due to some of the highlights of the activity itself, not because the result of the act is good. Deontological morals hold the belief that some actions are ethically compulsory regardless of their impact on the welfare of humans.

Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholder analysis emerged from applied ethics and was developed by Freeman (1998) and Weiss (1994). Free market economies regularly accord rights to partners in business. Be that as it may, stakeholders' evaluation holds different supposition as it considers ethics to be advancing in a society of equivalents where there is recognition of rights and needs which live inside all individuals and groups that are engaged with a business life (Greenwood 565). Businesses comprise of different interlaced networks of connections, rights, and obligations. Most people and groups are often interested in the performance of firms, apart from shareholders and board members. It is paramount to consider suppliers, employees, customers and the wider society when decisions are made regarding the business. As stated by Greenwood (568), it is believed that business which conforms to stakeholder approach have a competitive advantage since this concept brings relief to the ideology as well as particular policy facets of HRM.


Ethical conduct in HR processes is not a matter of choice for firms. Ethics play a critical role in HRM. Unlike before where ethics in human resources was an external element, it is becoming a more internal concern for businesses. The management is obliged to consider ethical issues related to privacy, compensation, and skills, labor costs, equal opportunity as well as fair working conditions. Philosophy presents the nature of morality and ethics and offers utilitarianism, deontology and stakeholder analysis approaches that HRM can use to evaluate and explore morality. Employers are bound by law to provide a conducive working environment that is free from prejudice and discrimination. Consequently, the employees will be more satisfied and maximize their potential for the benefit of the company.


Works Cited

Greenwood, Michelle. "Ethical analyses of HRM: A review and research agenda." Journal of Business Ethics 114.2 (2013): 355-366.

Greenwood, Michelle. "Ethics and human resource management." Human Resource Management in Australia 3e (2007): 562-587.

Khan, Muhammad. "Ethics and human resource management." (2015).

Scott, Elizabeth. "Ethics and Human Resource Management." Practicing Professional Ethics in Economics and Public Policy. Springer Netherlands, 2016. 215-221.

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