The paper "The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work" is a great example of a Management Case Study. The contemporary business world has increasingly turned its attention to the issues of ethical business practices. In particular, issues of fairness, justice, equity and transparency in the workplace have dominated the analyses of Human Resource Management (HRM) in many organizations (SHRM 2009). Subsequently, it has become imperative for businesses or companies to foster ethical cultures in the workplace. Most importantly, how HR managers treat their employees and the resulting relationship between employees and management has become the center of focus in the ethical HRM debate. Ethical HRM is essentially concerned with the issue of whether HR managers are treating their employees fairly or not.
The moral reasoning in determining whether HRM practice is ethical or not is often grounded in ethical frameworks or theories. One of the most significant ethical views is deontological ethics which draws heavily on the works of philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kantian ethics postulates that the only qualifier for an action to be considered ethical is the intent, not the consequences (Kramar et al 2011).
According to Kant, therefore, one would still be acting ethically if they had good intentions and negative consequences. Among Kant’ s categorical imperatives is that human beings should treat each other only the way they would want to be treated, with dignity and respect and as an end and never as means. The import of categorical imperatives to an ethical workplace is that for HRM to be ethical, the employees must be treated as ends, not means. This implies that HRM managers should not exploit employees for their services but treat them with dignity, fairness, and respect (Kramar et al 2011). This paper seeks to establish whether HRM can be ethical in the deontological sense if employees are treated as tools, instruments or resources.
This happens when businesses use hard HRM practices such as performance-based evaluation where the value of employees is simply what their contribution is to company bottom lines. Businesses also employ strategic HRM to survive hostile economic conditions such as off sourcing businesses to countries with cheaper labor leading to massive layoffs (Kramar et al 2011).
This report will argue that ethical HRM can only be achieved by treating employees fairly which includes respecting their rights and freedoms and providing meaningful work capacity. The report will also outline four recommendations on how employees can be treated as ends, not means. The report will highlight some of the issues in ethical HRM debate such as the protection of privacy, meaningful work, and transparency in the workplace. It will conclude that HRM cannot be ethical if employees are treated as means and offer four recommendations which would make HRM practice ethically in the deontological sense. The Ethical HRM Debate.
Ciulla (2000) provides insight into the possibility of an ethical workplace culture through the concept of meaningful work. According to Ciulla, work can only be meaningful if it is morally worthy. There are objective and subjective elements of meaningful work. The objectivity of meaningful work is derived from the moral conditions of the work itself. The employees should feel that they are treated with dignity and respect and that the HR manager engages with them on a basis of honesty and fairness.
On the other hand, the subjective element is made up of the perspectives or attitudes that workers bring into the workplace (Ciulla 2000). The workers should be able to express their personalities, values and life experiences through the output of their work. The employees should be trained and their skills refined to enhance their confidence and competency and to open up possibilities for career development. Such conditions constitute the Kantian ethical workplace. However, there are ongoing debates as to how HR Managers can balance the obligatory demands of their organization with ethical practices towards employees.
This questions the possibility of ethical HRM.
Ciulla, J., 2000, The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work, Three Rivers Press, New York.
Kaminski, N. & Tran, W., 2005, On Your Tracks: GPS Tracking in the Workplace, National Workrights Institute. Retrieved April 20, 2011 from < epic.org/privacy/workplace/gps-traking.pdf - United States >
Kramar, R., Bartram, T. & De Cieri, H, 2011, Human Resource Management in Australia-Strategy, People, Performance (4th ed.), McGraw-Hill, Sydney.
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 2009, ‘Business Ethics: The Role of Culture and Values for an Ethical Workplace’, SHRM Research Quarterly, Fourth Quarter 2009. Retrieved April 21, 2011 from