Discuss User for MBA

Posted on

Ethical Guidelines and Dilemmas of Human Resource Management

Describe the ethical guidelines for human resource management. Also discuss about ethical dilemmas relating management of human resource.

This post was part of TyroCity discussion forum
Question asked by sanjaya_paudel

Top comments (2)

dipadhungana profile image

Ethics refers to the moral principles that govern the way certain individual act. It sets the standards for what is right and wrong that defines what people are supposed to do personally as well as professionally. Ethical guidelines in human resource management refer to the moral obligations to be followed by employers so that the employees feel they are being treated with decency, equity and justice. It aims on ensuring the wellbeing of employees in the workplace. The ethical guidelines set standards for treating employees in general and during activities of organizational development, recruitment and selection, learning and development, performance management, reward management, employee relations and employment practices (Armstrong, 2014).

The scope of human resource management ethics are basic human, civil and employment right, safety in workplace, privacy, justifiable treatment, respect, honesty and fairness based process. The labor cost, opportunity for new skills, working conditions, honoring benefits provisions, fair hiring and justified termination also come under the ethics of managing human resources (Johnson).

The ethical guidelines for human resource management are:

  • To ensure that the strategic goals of the organization should embrace the needs and rights of the employees as well as those of the business.
  • To treat the employees as full human beings giving consideration to their personal need, hopes and anxieties.
  • Not to treat employees simply as the means to an end or mere factors of production for the organization.
  • To relate to employees in ways that recognizes their natural rights to be treated justly, equitably and respectfully.

Though there are ethical guidelines, we get to hear about different unethical issues that take place in an organization. It happens because managing people is very tough and the rules set in advance cannot always control the human behavior. Theft, gender biasness, sexual harassment and labor exploitation are the most heard issues that question the ethical guidelines of an organization. In case of such violations, immediate enquiry should be done and action should be taken. Strong processes and compliance should be incorporated as part of business ethics otherwise the goodwill of the organization will be in stake with loss of large amount. For example, the theft in workplace is against the business ethics. So if we find anyone in the organization stealing, we should immediately take strict action against him. If we let it go for first time, it will be habitual and keep on increasing that may ruin the goodwill of the organization in the long run.

No matter how hard one tries to be ethical, sometimes there arise certain circumstances when they doubt on their decisions on the ground of ethics. The confusion arises because what we think is right and justifiable may not mean the same to others. Ethical decisions emerge out of dilemmas so ethical dilemmas cannot be separated from business ethics. The ethical dilemmas are multifaceted and occur due to role conflict, organizational change and behavior of leaders, accuracy of reporting and favoritism and nepotism. The role of management in avoiding ethical dilemmas include ensuring human resource policies and actions meet the acceptable standards, acting as a role model and challenge the unethical part of the operations.

The approach to handle ethical dilemma is based on systematic questioning, analysis and diagnosis to get the actual fact and resolve the issue. The questions will help us in in-depth understanding of the issues so that we can figure the best possible way out (Carter). Some of the questions to be taken into consideration while handling such dilemmas are:

  • What are the details and facts associated with a particular situation?
  • Is the action in accordance with the organizational code of conduct?
  • What are the facts to justify the proposed action or decision?
  • Is the action lawful?
  • What are the possible consequences of the decision in the organization?
  • Is the decision or action beneficial or harmful for organizational growth and reputation?


Armstrong, M. (2014). Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice. London.

Carter, A. (n.d.). Ethical Dilemmas in Human Resource. Institute of Employment Studies.

Johnson, K. (n.d.). A List of Ethical Issues for Human Resource Management.

susham profile image

Definition of Ethics

The word ethics comes from the Greek word “ethikos”, which relating to one’s character. “Ethikos” itself is derived from another Greek word “Ethos” which means “character disposition”. Ethics is the branch of philosophy that examines right and wrong moral behaviour, moral concepts like justice, virtue and duty and moral language. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, ethics is the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation (merriam-webster.com, 2018).

Ethics in HRM

Human capital being the most important asset of the company, has to be taken well care of. Ethics in Human Resource Management is simply treating the workforce in a right manner. If the employees are treated with decency, it helps to keep them aligned with the overall goals of the organization. Ethics in HRM deals with supporting and righteous behaviour of the employers towards their employees to maintain equality and equity justice.

HR professionals have a special responsibility for guarding and promoting core values in the organization on how people should be managed and treated. They need to take action to achieve fair dealing. (Armstrong, 2014)

Ethical Guidelines for HRM

The guidelines relate to how employees are treated generally in terms of Human Resource activities of organizational development, performance appraisals, reward management, recruitment and selection and employee relations. These guidelines also describes the practices concerning workplace environment, health and safety requirements, equal opportunities, securities and redundancy.

Organizational Development

Organizational development is a planned effort for a work group and/or the organization managed by leadership and supported by employees, to increase organization effectiveness through planned change in process and systems. Any organization should make explicit any values or assumptions used in such OD programmes. Likewise, maximum involvement of all the concerned individuals would ensure that they understand the process and the likely benefit to them as a result of such programmes (Armstrong, 2014).

Recruitment and Selection

Recruiting the right candidates is essential for an organization as they aid in achieving the goals of the organization. Along with that, the process of recruitment and selection requires lots of monetary and humanitarian resources. But this doesn’t give the recruiters freedom to mistreat any of the candidates. They should be treated regardless of their gender, colour, religion, origin and ethnicity. All the jobseekers should be treated equally.

Additionally, jobseekers should be given the opportunity to clear out their queries, present their case and be informed on decisions relating their applications (Armstrong, 2014).

For example, in banks of Nepal, there is a provision of tracking the application status. Similarly, there are organizations that flow the information to the job applicants regardless of their selection in contrast to those organizations that provide no information on the selection/rejection.

Learning and Development

Learning is a continuous process. One should continuously update themselves to keep in track in this ever growing industry. An organization should recognize any such need and provide their employees with relevant training and development workshops and courses. Provision of such opportunities not only increases skills required to perform well in the jobs but also develop their potential. However, individuals should have the liberty to choose what they want to learn for programmes beyond their basic learning. An organization should also keep in mind that the objective of training is to develop the individual professionally and is not merely a means to impose the organizational values.

However, most organizations in Nepal do not have defined training and development policies. Further, training is the first victim of budget cuts. It is rather treated as a cost than an investment. In average, only a menial 0.5% of total budget is used as training budgets (Maharjan, 2013).

Contrary to that, organizations like Teach for Nepal, organizes training programmes every 3 months for professional and intellectual development of their employees.

Performance Management

In employee opinion surveys, tolerance for underperformance frequently emerges as a major source of dissatisfaction among employees. However, in order to be able to identify under-performance, organisations need to clarify for both managers and staff what constitutes an acceptable level of performance. In addition, performance reviews should focus far more on performance planning and improvement than on retrospective appraisal (O’riordan, 2017).

The decisions regarding performance management should be transparent to the employees. People affected by such decisions should have the opportunity to scrutinize the basis upon which decisions were made (Armstrong, 2014).

Reward Management

It is undeniable that reward system is necessary to keep the employees motivated and enthusiastic towards the target achievement. However, reward system should not be ethical and should not be a reason for undesirable behaviour. The reward system should be fair and transparent to everybody. It should be distributed according to their contribution (Armstrong, 2014). Co-operatives in Nepal have a provision of allocating some portion of the profit for their employees.

Ethical Dilemmas

A good way to think about ethics in HR is to consider some contemporary real-life dilemmas faced by HR specialists. HR specialists face dilemmas all the time. (Carter, 2015)

Some of the questions that HR professionals should ask themselves in such dilemmas would be:

  • Are there any ethical problems here?
  • What is the full range of possible solutions available?
  • Which solution would be chosen and why?
  • Would one behave differently if you knew for certain no one would ever find out?

Armstrong, M. (2014). Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice. New York: Kogan Page Limited.

Carter, A. (2015). Ethical Dilemmas in HR practices. 4-6.

Maharjan, M. P. (2013). Human Resource Management Practices in Nepal: An Empirical Study on Foreign and Nepali Firms , 17.

O’riordan, J. (2017). The Practice of Human Resource Management. 18.

merriam-webster.com . (2018). Retrieved from merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethic