HR EthicsWhat to do when you don’t know?

HR EthicsWhat to do when you don’t know?

HRM Ethical Concerns When Faced with a Dilemma Regarding Strategic Value

Over the past 15 or more years there has been enormous amount of literature available on the topic of the relationship between ethics, HR practices and organizational performance. Organizations are increasingly depending on HR professionals to have extensive knowledge in ethical practices, talent management with the ability to quantify human resource metrics.  The whole purpose of having an employee is for mental and physical production. Achieving competitive success through the workforce, which involves expanding on how HR professionals and senior leaders think about the organizational return on investment (ROI) and the employment relationship (Pfeffer, 2005). Being able to prove ROI in HR is considered having the skills to produce and explain measurable data. The ethical issues within HRM remain underdeveloped (Greenwood, 2013).

Ethical Concerns

Carter (2015) presents in research, Ethical dilemmas in HR Practice A paper from HR in a disordered world: “2013 survey results by the Institute of Business Ethics that reveals 38% of the British public believe that business behavior in general is not ethical.”

Carter (2015) human resource management is a fundamental business activity that manages relations between groups of people. Moreover, in postmodern civilization regarding standards, values, morals and ethics have grown to be complex, where norms have given way to acceptance and ambiguity (Carter, 2015).

There are five applicable ethical dilemma categories to include (Carter, 2015):

  • Misrepresentation and collusion.

  • Misuse of data.

  • Manipulation and coercion.

  • Value and goal conflict, and

  • Technical ineptness.

Recent research on business ethics specifies that HR-related issues are progressively more prominent in the day –today practice of modern managers (Wooten, 2001). There is no doubt that most people believe that HR is a strategic organizational component and the global gateway to successful organizational performance (Wooten, 2001).

Ethical behavior and legal compliance are now more than ever a formal concern in the global business market (Weaver, & Trevino, 2001). With advance technology in the forefront of rapid business changes ethics management inspires questions of fairness with problematic context and situational issues; the HR function should foster ethical programs throughout the organization (Weaver, & Trevino, 2001).  Unethical behavior can manifest in various ways for example human resource data reporting.  Misrepresented data by HR, line managers and other organizational leaders can have a negative effect on the organizational strategic plan. Misrepresented data can cause long term damage across multiple time periods (Becker, Huselid & Ulrich. 2001).

Keeping analyzed data on file can provide a source of protection from unforeseen legal disputes with former employees, and long standing productivity issues, the key function is to use data collecting and reporting time wisely.

There are many components involving organizational ethics, recruiting, hiring, compensation and equal employment opportunities, HR is a vital and crucial function to control fairness, data, documentation, training and communication.

Thoughts on How HR professionals Might Deal With Ethics

As a HR practitioner I recommend constant training for human resource professionals specifically on these types of subjects: how to avoid bias behavior, how to change bias personalities, how to accept diversity and inclusion, how to properly measure data, how to accept globalization, and how to lead change. These subjects need to be trained and addressed on a yearly basis to ensure constant ethical practices and behavior for the success of organizational performance.


Becker, B., Huselid, M. A., and Ulrich, D. (2001). The HR Scorecard: Linking People Strategy,  And Performance. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Ekuma, K. J., and Akobo, L. A., (2015). Human Resource Management Ethics and Professionals’ Dilemmas: A Review and Research Agenda. Human Resource Management Research 5(3): 47-57 DOI: 10.5923/j.hrmr.20150503.01

Greenwood, M. R. (2002). Ethics and HRM: A review and conceptual analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 36(3), 261–278. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Business Source Complete database

Pfeffer, J. (2005). Producing sustainable competitive advantage through the effective management of people. Academy of Management Executive, 19(4), 95–106.

Weaver, G. R., Trevino, L.K.  (2001). The Role of Human Resources in Ethics/Compliance Management A Fairness Perspective.  Human Resource Management Review 113-134.

Wooten, K.C. (2001). Ethical dilemmas in human resource management: an application of a multidimensional framework, a unifying taxonomy, and applicable codes. Human Resource Management Review, 11, 159 – 175.


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