Term Paper: Business Ethics

Pages: 25 (7788 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] But her actions, and her corrupt sense of "duty" make her drive to create happiness an illusion, a risky business indeed. As to the deontological considerations, Maria had a right to speak her mind (through her promises), but she failed in her correlative duty to see the big picture; her action in falsifying her company was "permissible" only because no one knew, but she did not have a moral right to do what she did.


Harvey, Martin. Teasing a Limited Deontological Theory of Morals out of Hobbes.

The Philosophical Forum. 35, 35-50.

Philosophy Pages (2004). Immanuel Kant: The Moral Law. Retrieved August 13, 2004 at http://www.philosophypages.com/ph/kant.htm.

The Free Dictionary (2004). Deontology. Retrieved August 13, 2004 at http://www.thefreedictionary.com.

Dating at Work - Is it morally acceptable for employers to make rules against dating in the workplace?

What is the morality as far as a business making a decision to stymie - or strongly discourage - workplace romance? Prior to addressing that issue, it seems logical to focus on what the problem is, as far as office romance; and what the stakes are, insofar as the employer's responsibilities, legally and socially, when two employees who work in the same office engage in romantic behavior.

What is the problem? According to the article in the Defense Counsel Journal (Wilson, et al., 2003), a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) "predicted that 55% of office romances would likely result in marriage" but the other side of the coin is that 28% of relationships which bloomed in an office environment "may result in complaints of favoritism from co-workers." If close to a third of office romances end in distractions such as mentioned in the preceding paragraph, that is a big problem for management, and clearly it needs to be addressed. Further, SHRM believes that 24% of workplace romances result in "sexual harassment claims, and another 24% in the decreased productivity of employees involved."

In a Fortune magazine survey of CEOs published in Training & Development (Salopek, 1998), 77% of those CEOs believe "office romances" expose companies to the "danger of sexual harassment suits." Also quoted in the Salopek article are data gleaned from the 1998 book, The Office Romance: Playing with Fire Without Getting Burned, by Dennis M. Powers. According to Powers, 12% of companies train supervisors to manage office romances, 91% of firms do not have "formal policies" which govern dating among co-workers, 78% of CEOs believe office romances "create an unbusinesslike atmosphere," and 74% of managers believe it's "OK to date a co-worker."

Meanwhile, in an employee survey conducted by USA Today (2002), titled "What employees say about workplace romance," 76% of respondents said office romances "Can lead to conflict in the organization" and 71% said it's a good idea to "Avoid workplace romance." To the question of, "is employee romance permitted in your workplace, 52% said "no."

What are stakes, and what are the current management policies towards workplace romance? In the Wilson article, she writes that current policies adopted by employers range from extremely strict ("comprehensive prohibition" of dating between co-workers), to a bit more liberal (actively discouraging but not banning romance), to relying on "unwritten rules" to try to contain office romance.

And within the context of office romance, there is also the potentially problematic issue of dating / romance between supervisor and subordinate. Such a romance may result in "allegations of favoritism," Wilson explains. Co-workers may claim that the subordinate dating the supervisor may receive "preferential treatment" in the form of "longer breaks," "preferred shifts," or even receive "unfairly favorable reviews." This perception (not necessarily valid, but perceptions can be as damaging to morale as reality) of favoritism "could lower employee morale and productivity - two business elements that employers have a vested interest in protecting," Wilson continues.

Meanwhile, a larger problem for an employer is the potential bombshell of a sexual harassment claim against that employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Claims can be made under a "quid pro quo" allegation in which an employer may be accused of providing "conditions, benefits, promotions or even employment itself on the receipt of sexual favors. Also, a claim could be made under the "hostile work environment" category, when a supervisor has allegedly given favors to a subordinate who in turn has created jealousy and resentment among other employees.

Another scenario that causes havoc in a workplace - and distracts employees from their assigned duties and responsibilities - is reported in Nation's Business (Meyer, 1998) and involves "a nasty breakup of co-workers." This dynamic "may cause palpable tension and even lead to sexual-harassment charges," according to Meyer. Then there is the adulterous relationship - a worker everyone knows is a married man dating a female colleague from the office - which, Meyer writes, "may strike many co-workers as offensive."

Meantime, management often shies away from taking action: Writing a romance in the workplace policy statement "is in a pile called, I'll get around to it someday," says publisher Mike Beard (Beard Communications), as quoted in Meyer's piece.

Summing up the potential hazards of office romance well is piece called "The Secret's Out" (Solomon, 1998) in Workforce journal: "...The dangers of office liaisons [include] threats to worker competence, lowered productivity, demoralized co-workers, secrecy, potential conflict-of-interest, and worst of all, claims of invasion of privacy and sexual-harassment lawsuits."

So, given the realities that businesses face, is it morally acceptable for an employer to make rules against dating in the workplace? The question is a good one, a valid question, and one assumes that the rules set in motion by the employer will be reasonable and well publicized. (Some offices have taken "rules" to extreme, according to Solomon's article: "One city agency in California requires disclosure before the first kiss," and a "Midwest firm prohibits eye-to-eye contact with the opposite sex for longer than 30 seconds.")

Looking at Immanuel Kant's work, The Moral Law, and the deontological aspect of an employee's morality in these issues, the action of an employer is "morally right in virtue of their motives" (Philosophy Pages, 2004), if those motives result more from "duty" than from "inclination." In this case, it is clearly the employer's duty to protect his employees (others beyond the two who are dating) from the possibility of distraction and entanglement in the emotional or social consequences of an office romance. It is the employer's duty to protect his company from potential sexual harassment lawsuits, and it is the employer's duty to establish policies and guidelines so that all employees - present and future, those engaged in romantic liaisons and those who never would engage in amorous relationships in the workplace - understand there is strong leadership in this potential time bomb of a situation.

Kant's deontological description of "duty" goes even further, as revealed in The Philosophy Pages: "...The ultimate principle of morality must be a moral law conceived so abstractly that it is capable of guiding us to the right action in application to every possible set of circumstances." In other words, when the employer sets forth very clear and well-publicized guidelines regarding dating in his workplace, that employer will then indeed be making a moral decision because it will apply in "every possible set of circumstances."

The utilitarian consideration of this question would be that the employer's decision to ban workplace dating is correct, and moral, if the action maximizes happiness for the greatest number of people, according to John Stuart Mill's beliefs (The Philosophy Pages). "Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness," Mill wrote in Utilitarianism 2, "[and] wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." Surely a well-written, legally solid set of policies on workplace dating - and a staff of workers who are fully informed as to those policies - has the potential to promote happiness in a workplace environment. Certainly, some employees might sneak out together beyond the workplace, but they understand the consequences should they be caught.

Mill was preceded in his efforts on Utilitarianism by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, whose work, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, was written in 1789. In his writing (discussed in The Philosophy Pages), Bentham's moral theory was based on the premise that "it is the consequences of human actions that count in evaluating their merit and that the kind of consequences that matters for human happiness is just the achievement of pleasure and the avoidance of pain."

Taken literally in the context of the employer who is laying down the law on workplace dating, the achievement of pleasure (e.g., a workplace that is fun, that workers look forward to coming to every day, because it is free from the stress of relationships that present potential pain) by his employees is the consequence that has long-term merit that really matters.

Bentham's Utilitarianism also puts forth that "...the happiness of the community as a whole is nothing… [END OF PREVIEW]

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