Organisations that implement a management philosophy that relies heavily on business ethics in all functional areas but especially when dealing with human resources, are proven to be more successful than those that operate in an unethical manner. The purpose of this paper is to share insights obtained from human resource (HR) practitioners about ethical behaviour in South African organisations. A descriptive study was undertaken using an online research design in which practitioners were required to respond to statements on possible unethical behaviour. Respondents (304) were mostly employed at large organizations and generally held post-graduate academic qualifications. The unethical behaviours most frequently observed include actions such as taking credit for work done by someone else, misusing sick leave or sabotaging the work of another person and disregard for company policies and procedures. The areas that lent themselves to the most serious unethical actions in organizations were employee selection, performance management and appraisal, recruitment and advertising, and remuneration and rewards. The areas least subject to unethical conduct are considered affirmative action and employment equity plans, employee orientation and induction, employee socialisation and psychometric testing. The results might also suggest that HR has been less effective in dealing with ethical matters or, alternatively, that business ethics has become a higher priority involving greater responsibility on the part of senior management. This study emphasises the important role and contribution the human resource function can and should make to institutionalise good business ethics in organisations.
Barney Erasmus, University of South Africa, South Africa