Three Common Ethical Issues Facing Managers in Business


A business manager is the point person between boards of directors and employees, so she can sometimes find herself in ethically delicate situations when these two sides conflict. Dealing with everyone in a workplace in a fair and evenhanded manner can be a challenge, particularly when others are not making the same effort to be reasonable.

Business meeting with manager.
Business meeting with manager. (Image: AIMSTOCK/iStock/Getty Images)

Ethical Responsibility

The question of ethics in business has been formalized in the discipline of corporate social responsibility, or CSR. This field examines ways that large corporations are responsible to their communities and to the environment in ways that don't fall within the dictates of a free-market profit system. The growing prevalence of CSR within the corporate environment has heightened many managers' awareness of ethical issues and of their responsibility to be conversant with them and able to make proper decisions. Managers need to be confident about their decisions, because they will inevitably be at odds with someone else's preferences much of the time.

Ethics are an important part of business.
Ethics are an important part of business. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)


Questions of discrimination are common in the workplace, and managers are often called upon to deal with them. Historical discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation has made many individuals sensitive to these problems. Accusations or lawsuits charging discrimination are serious. They may be brought against a company as a whole or a manager as an individual. Good managers make proactive efforts to educate themselves about discrimination and make every effort to avoid discriminating against others, basing their hiring and promotion decisions solely on experience, ability and other relevant factors.

Discrimination in the workplace.
Discrimination in the workplace. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)


Fraud is a serious ethical breach in the workplace. A manager who is made aware of fraudulent activities within the workplace is ethically required to report this to the relevant authorities. This can be particularly awkward if the fraud is being perpetrated by the manager's employers. Becoming a whistleblower is not what most managers want to do, but it has to be done if managers are serious about maintaining and promoting an honest and fair workplace. Fraud may also be perpetrated by employees and by managers themselves.

Close up of the word fraud.
Close up of the word fraud. (Image: Stephen Rees/iStock/Getty Images)


Marketing is the practice of educating the public about the products or services offered by a business and of convincing the public of the value of these products and services. Because of the huge financial incentive that lies behind effective marketing, there is a strong motive to engage in practices that might be considered dishonest. Managers who work in a marketing environment may be asked to engage in marketing and publicity activities that aren't 100 percent transparent; for example, they might have to develop advertisements that misrepresent a product or hide its negative health effects. This presents a clear ethical dilemma for a conscientious manager.

Marketing materials.
Marketing materials. (Image: pressureUA/iStock/Getty Images)

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