The Most Essential Organizational MechanismsOct 26, 2021
Written by Sabrina Whittaker | Ethics as Organizational Culture
Reading Reflection: Organizational Mechanisms
In response to an excerpt from a chapter covering ethics as organizational culture, this essay explores several organizational mechanisms for developing and maintaining ethical culture alignment within an organization. We argue that of the many listed within the excerpt, the most essential include implementing data-backed disciplinary systems, enforcing policies, and the desire to reach meaningful, mutually beneficial goals for the organization and its members. Throughout this paper, we’ll use the United States and the experiences of its citizens to ground our argument in widely shared cultural norms and validate the necessity of strategic organizational mechanisms for maintaining strong ethical culture alignment.
Develop a Data-Backed Disciplinary System
Most companies recognize the necessity of policies. According to the except, “86 percent of respondents [in a 2005 Ethics Resource Center study] from a wide variety of employers across the United Staes reported that the private sector, public sector, and not-for-profit organizations they work for have formal ethics policy standards.” It’s not enough to have policies or standards of behavior, however; you must also have data-backed disciplinary systems to support them. As stated in the chapter, “people pay attention to what is measured, rewarded, and disciplined.” In reality, this manifests as members comparing their perspective against the ethical culture to pass ethical judgment and subsequently take relevant action. So, we essentially perform a sort of cost-benefit analysis of various behaviors, notably juxtaposing remaining the course against acts that deviate from outlined policies but better reflect our individual differences.
To aid in increasing the effectiveness of laws and policies, correctional sentencing deters behavior that opposes the system. The difficulty with US governing systems is that they’re primarily based on the values of white, landowning men from the 1700s, a relatively homogenous group of people. As an organization, America does not accurately reflect the diverse realities and motivations of its members. To remedy this, the United States could use data collected from private, public, and not-for-profit organizations displaying excellent ethical culture alignment to guide the development of laws. Additionally, to extinguish statutes and regulations that don’t accurately reflect the behavior and interests of its adherents, members from various subcultures could provide research and analysis proposing alternative solutions based on their subcultured perspective. These actions would increase ethical culture alignment within the United States by presenting steps towards creating policies and informal systems that more accurately reflect the interests and the needs of an organization’s members. As the excerpt notes, to effectively communicate needs and goals, we must “[help] employees identify how each person can create value for the organization” and … [reward] employees fairly for their contribution to achieving those corporate goals. We can safely replace “employees” with members to assert that: systems without data to support an organization’s members serves only as “an obstacle to getting “real” work done.”
Enforce Policies and Codes
“To have real influence on behavior, a code must be enforced.”
– pg. 170, chapter 5, Ethics as Organizational Culture
So far, we’ve established that an organization needs to maintain ethical culture alignment between its policies and behavior; to do so, a data-based disciplinary system should be put in place. Continuing with our macroscopic view of the United States as an organization with diverse members each seeking to perform the most correct action, the United States doesn’t consistently enforce policies and codes which discourages ethical culture alignment, encourages cynicism of the system, and breeds rebellion. Organizations suffer a critical ethical failure when they “focus on what business results are delivered and … ignore how… results [are] achieved.” Suppose we don’t look closely at how results are achieved with an organization or hold those that break or bend policy accountable for their deceit. We’d be subject to allowing ethically corrupt members to rise to highly visible places.
In the United States, police brutality is an enduring issue and one of the leading causes of cynicism of its governing systems. Police officers exist in a space that allows them to navigate between the roles of “standard member” and “key decision-maker” relatively easily to escape punishment for harmful, often deadly, behavior. Perhaps worse, because of its impact on the public’s perception and implicit understanding of the system, police officers aren’t usually held accountable in highly visible moments. The lesson here is that US governing systems must not exist to serve the organization’s members. If not its members, who, or what, then do policies and standards of behavior protect? Without the enforcement of data-backed policies that accurately reflect the needs and interests of members, organizations won’t maintain a robust ethical culture alignment. Since “perceptions of [our peers] has an even stronger influence on … behavior than the existence of a code”, it is imperative that policies and code are enforced consistently and with increasing severity, especially when the decision is seen and felt by a majority of members within the organization.
Establish Meaningful, Mutually Beneficial Goals
We’ve explored how data-backed systems address member needs for guidance within an organization and the consequences of failing to enforce policies and codes. Our final argument contends that meaningful, mutually beneficial goals shared between the organization and individual members are among the essential components of an organization with strong ethical culture alignment.
An often-overlooked prerequisite of mutually beneficial goal setting is ensuring members understand the history and structure of an organization. Despite the shared heritage of the United States’ diverse membership, an inconsistent understanding of American history exists among ethnic groups and subcultures. If it is not already apparent, the United States has a weak ethical, cultural alignment because, like universities, it is comprised of relatively independently acting subcultures. The difference is that within universities, subcultures don’t develop universal standards. Some works, such as Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life by Marcus Anthony Hunter and Zandria Robinson, suggests that the inconsistent retelling of American history among subcultures leads to disparate minority maps and outlines the damage of disproportionately serving the needs of a dwindling subset of members whose beliefs align with those defined within the United States ethical guidebook (i.e., the constitution and justice system). It is difficult, if not impossible, to make fair and impartial decisions under these circumstances, thus affirming the need for increased transparency and shared goals among members of an organization.
Once members have a shared understanding of the organization’s actual values, missions, and goals, they’re equipped to make an informed decision about their ability to comply with ethical culture standards. Should there be any misalignment, members could more easily chart solutions, or an exit strategy, depending on their individual needs. A successful example from the text includes the furniture manufacturing company “HMI’s roving leadership.” In response to a member sharing news of their illness, the company prioritized disseminating information surrounding the member’s illness to bring awareness over the production. “Because the value of each individual is important to us, we were able to stop the manufacture of furniture for one day to take care of Peter.” (pg. 177, Ethics as Organizational Culture). HMI’s attention to Peter highlights the meaningful aspect of goal setting. It is not enough to be generally informed about the needs of people; an organization must meet the specific needs of its members to achieve a strong ethical culture alignment.
To recap, in response to an excerpt from a chapter covering ethics as organizational culture, this essay explored several organizational mechanisms for developing and maintaining ethical culture alignment within an organization. The criticality of implementing data-backed disciplinary systems, enforcing policies, and sharing meaningful, mutually beneficial goals to a strongly aligned ethical culture standard was supported by comparisons against the United States as an organization. The juxtapositions highlight the ineffectiveness of organizations that do not apply these measures. Finally, we used the varying experiences of US citizens to ground our argument and validate the necessity of strategic organizational mechanisms for maintaining strong ethical culture alignment.