Practically business ethics at the workplace connotes an alignment between what the organization values and how to go about it. It means that the all the day to day operations or activities carried out by employees are in tandem with the organizational policies without any deviations. There are however lots of myths that surround business ethics and their relevance and effectiveness.
Many management thinkers and philosophers believe that business ethics alters peoples values. They cease to be what they are, which comes in way of realization of their full potential. Instead business ethics should be about managing values and conflict resolution. Conflict management is what they stress the most upon.
There is a continuous tension between individual and organizational ethics. Many organizations believe that most of their human resources are ethical already and need not be trained upon. When such an ethical dilemma arises, it arises because there is a clash of principles that differ in their result priorities. Again there ethics to counter that are equally reasonable! So what do you choose?
One more myth that surrounds business ethics is that it is well managed and the prerogative of philosophers and theologians. They say that there is no such term as business ethics that can decide how organizations go about their day to day activities. Most of this may be attributed to lack of participation of business leaders in ethical decision making process and their interest in the same.
Business ethics is also criticized as being nothing new. It is believed to something that only avows what is good and which is logical and known to everyone. But when we look at the same from the perspective of stakeholders, the society and employees who work at the bottom of the pyramid, it safeguards the interests of all these groups. Organizations cannot function in a programmed manner ensuring there is no breach of a certain code in the absence of ethics and values.
Business ethics in the context of corporations is recent, but it is fairly old if we talk of general business transactions. Cicero wrote about business ethics in his book On Duties. It looks recent because of the corporate social responsibility movement that started in early 1970s.
Yet another myth that surrounds business ethics is that business ethics cannot be managed which is totally wrong. In reality business ethics is managed or exercised indirectly in some way. Organizations priorities can also be reflective of the ethics followed in the organizations. For example a sales driven organization is bound to be aggressive naturally, whereas one that is into the business of hospitality is bound to be different.
Certain other sections of people in management believe that business ethics and social responsibility are the same. They are not! In fact corporate social responsibility is only a small part of it. Corporate social responsibility concerns itself with managing business dealings and the interface with the society; it does not deal with ethics at the workplace. However both fall under the continuum of business ethics.