General Introduction to Management Ethics

Benefits of Ethics in Management

According to Johannes J. Britz – ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with human conduct and character. Ethics reflects questions such as what would be the right thing to to? et al. He furthers states that the process of ethical decision making consists of the identification and assessment of the problem, the choice to act and the action itself which is based on ethical norms and principles.

For the information professional such as the librarian Britz applied the concept of information ethics which is defined as professional ethics that deals with ethical issues such as professional gathering, organizing, value adding, storage, retrieval, distribution and management of information products and services on behalf of a third party (public). Thus the librarian should uphold the ethics of individual and collective responsibility towards knowledge, its production, communication and use.

Ethical Issues

  • Right to access information
  • Right to intellectual property
  • Quality of information
  • Right to privacy
  • Public funding issues

Managing Ethics in the Workplace

Elizabeth A Buchanan states it is best to have a Code of Ethics in libraries as it provides a framework of guidelines for justice, beneficence, independence, objectivity and professionalism. As such, a Code of Ethics should be viewed as a set of ‘best practices’ as it will reduce anxiety and pressure to living up to the code. The Code reflects professional ethics of obligations to society, obligations to employer, obligations to clients and obligations to colleagues and organizations. As a result, it is important that persons be educated about ethics starting at school and continuing in the workplace.


According to Hauptman (1988) self regulation can be affirmed through a set of operative ethical principles.

1. Respect the integrity of data and information.

2. Do not purposefully or inadvertently distort, fabricate, plagiarize or manipulate in order to give a false impression.

3. Do not attempt to control others’ articulations and thereby control their thought.

4. Respect professional confidentiality

5. Distinguish between personal commitment and professional obligation.

Other benefits that can redound to an organization with an ethics program are as follows:

· Social responsibility

· Maintain a moral course

· Cultivate strong teamwork and productivity

· Support employee growth and meaning

· Ethics help ensure that policies are legal

· Ethics help manage values associated with quality management, strategic planning and diversity management

· Ethics promote a strong public image.

It is said best by Donaldson and Davis, in “Business Ethics? Yes, But What Can it Do for the Bottom Line?” (Management Decision, V28, N6, 1990) ethics legitimizes managerial actions, strengthens the coherence and balance of the organization’s culture, improves trust in relationships between individuals and groups, supports greater consistency in standards and qualities of products, and cultivates greater sensitivity to the impact of the enterprise’s values and messages.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ethical Decision Making Models in Librarianship

Stephen Shorb, the associate director for the George A. Smathers Library at the University of Florida, believes that librarians make ethical decisions everyday. In order to make those decisions Shorb believes that librarians should follow Raganathan's Five Laws of Library Science. These laws, which Raganathan wrote in 1931 are:
  1. Books are for use
  2. Every reader his/her book
  3. Every book its reader
  4. Save the time of the reader
  5. The library is a growing organism
Although Raganathan uses the term "book" he wrote that this includes all library materials. Book is just a generic term.

So can ethical decisions be made using these laws? Can librarians base their decisions on a set of rules that were written 76 years ago? Do these laws still apply? Should librarians follow these rules or follow a code of ethics?

These ideas were taken from the article "Ethical Decision Making in Library Administration" by Stephen Shorb. It was published in The Southeastern Librarian volume 52.


Sue said...

Libraries and society have changed since these laws were written. The language of the laws would need to be expanded to include more than "reader." The laws are very limiting and today libraries are not confined to rigid boundaries.

What do others think?


Rachel Stevenson said...

I was wondering about that as well. The article I read mentioned the laws and what they were, but did not give much background beyond that. I have requested Ragananthan's book to see how he actually defines reader and book. The author of the article felt that today we could change them to user and library material or information. I'll let you know when I get the book from PALCI.

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