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BUSINESS ETHICS TERM REPORT

HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND KANTIAN


ETHICS

Presented To
Sir Irfan Mohammed
Business Ethics (SSC 401)
Section C

Presented By
Hooriyeh Ali (14143)
Hina Batool (14182)
Amin Punjani (15900)
Usman Pervez (16349)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
ABSTRACT:.......................................................................................................3
LITERATURE REVIEW:.......................................................................................4
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY:.............................................................................7
ANALYSIS:.........................................................................................................9
CONCLUSION..................................................................................................13

ABSTRACT:
This report discusses the different standpoints on the topic Human Resource
Management and Kantian Ethics, given by the articles studied as a base on which the
report has been made. Each article discusses different views and ideas when it comes
to human resource management and its practical application and implications. In the
article written by Claus Dierksmeier, he has investigated how Kants philosophy
contributes universalistic arguments in favor of a humanistic ethics. Kant moved the
idea of freedom to the center of his philosophy, arguing that from a reflection on the
nature of human freedom a self-critical assessment of its morally appropriate use could
be gleaned. Therein, that is, in constructing his ethics from (subjective) self-reflection
rather than resting it on presumed (objective) values, and in constructing norms of
interpersonal validity from the individual perspective (bottom-up) rather than through
(top-down) references to prearranged ethical or metaphysical orders, lies Kants
innovation in ethics theory.In the article namely; Ethnicity, Equality and Voice, the
authors/contributors talk about the ethical perspectives that need to be made the center
of the HRM agenda which is currently missing. Authors argue that ethical issues are a
part of strategic calculations and developments in the management of HR. Authors have
also tried to point out the common and most serious challenges at work place that are
sexism, racism, and cultural and transnational dimensions within an organization
decrease the morale of the employees. It is being highlighted that the role of external
agents and stakeholders is ignore in ensuring the equal HRM.In both the articles of Mr.
Michelle Greenwood namely; Ethics and HRM and Questioning HRM, Michelle has
talked about the different perspectives of HRM that are Mainstream HRM and the
Critical HRM. He has pointed out the differences between these two perspectives which
actually related to the Kantain Ethics. He talks about the Developing perspective which
does not ignore the role of stakeholders. Further, the author has pointed the two main
types of HRM that are followed now days in every business organization which are Soft
HRM and Hard HRM. He comments after pointing out the similarities in both types of
HRM that soft HRM is also Hard HRM in a disguised way or we can say wolf in the
sheeps clothing.

LITERATURE REVIEW:
The Kantian Ethics first of all, talks about categorical imperative. Categorical imperative
is the way in which you determine what your duties are, what you should and should not
do. It is categorical, because it applies to everyone, without any exceptions, and it is an
imperative, since it is a command. There are two formulations of categorical imperative;
the first formulation talks about universalizability and states: Act according to maxim by
the virtue of which you can will that it should become a universal law. Second
formulation talks about principle of Autonomy and Respect: "Act so that you treat
humanity in your own person or for anyone else, always as an end and never as a
means only".
Issues in human resource management today are linked to these two formulations. Kant
argues against using workers as a means to an end instead of considering them as the
humans they are. They are given low pay and are made subject to preferential
treatment. They also face harassment and do not get the promotion they deserve etc.
Those employees who are not incorporated into the organization and may or may not
participate in these benefits are the periphery employees. The rest who do participate
in the benefits, are the core employees. There are two kinds of HRM; soft and hard.
Soft HRM is for core employees that may be expressed through a caring-commitment
dialogue and hard HRM is for periphery workers with systematically eroded skills and
depressed earnings.
Soft HRM is considered to be more insidious because when we cannot be assured of
the soft nature of HRM practices, then it is more hazardous for employees to be
exposed to such practices than for them to face blatant hard HRM practices.
There is the possibility that an organization may act in what it believes to be the interest
of the employees without consulting its employees. If the companys only concern is to
manage its assets to obtain the goals of its owners and the workers only concern is to
get the best working conditions they can, an employer will release an employee and an
employee will walk away from an employer when it is profitable for either one to do so.

When employee engagement combines with responsibility towards employees we can


refer to the moral treatment of employees. It is incumbent on the organization to treat
its employees as an end in their own right and to bear the consequences of its behavior
toward employees.
Winstanley et al state that ethics in HRM should draw from basic human, civil and
employment rights for job security and consultation, social and organizational justice
approaches for pay setting and performance management, and universalist views
based on Kantian principles which focus on treating individuals as an end in
themselves.
Sexism and racism are challenges at the workplace. While managing diversity, role of
external agents and stakeholders is ignored in ensuring an equal HRM. Managers must
manage risk while making sure that the individuals are not being exploited or
undermined.
Within issues of ethics, equality and organizations, there is an implicit issue regarding
culture and transnational dimensions within organizations. Ethics and diversity related
work issues are complex and broad.
Kant conceptualizes on ethical theory that centers on an idea of humanity. He came up
to three positions: Religious tolerance, Civic freedom, Rule of law.
Stakeholders theory states that employees are the legitimate stakeholders in the
organization. Managers have a duty to attend to all those who have a stake or claim on
the organization. In Practice, stakeholders are valued just because they can damage
the organizations image through media or other market mechanisms.
According to the functionalist approach, HRM is a mechanism for the attainment of
organizational goals. It assumes an individualistic approach (viewing employees as
units) and a unitarist approach (combining purpose and goals) in determining
employment relationships. Issues such as inequality, conflict, domination, manipulation
etc. occur in the organisation where HRM is unethical.

Many critics view HRM as a social constructed phenomenon that is used by the
powerful for their own means. They require employees to sacrifice more of themselves
to the needs of the organization.
Many researchers identify issues of justice and accountability as an important direction
for future work in HRM. Lately, both teleological and deontological theories of ethics
have been used to evaluate various forms of HRM. But, such analysis is still at an early
stage and requires significant development.
Lastly, critics view soft HRM as a control of management over the lives of the
employees. Rather than being a way for employees to fully develop and contribute
within the organization, HRM practices are a way of intervening in employees lives in
order to ensure they make greater sacrifice to the needs of the organization.

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY:

In the making of this report, four articles were


consulted, thoroughly analyzed and used as a basis to
discuss the importance of ethical human resource
management at the workplace. Each had different
objectives of conducting research, but to broadly
classify them, they all were directed towards the ethical
side of HRM and how it is being abused and used unethically.
One of the objectives was to find out how Kants theory is different from the theories of
other philosophers regarding the human resource management. These articles were
extracted under the light of Kants second formulation which states that human are end
in themselves and should not be used as a means only. It was to determine how Kant
use his theories and philosophy to enlighten the concept of self esteem and dignity
among humans, especially in relation to business organizations, for how humans
(workers) should be treated by the employers.
Another objective was to determine what Kant thought about human nature and how he
designed his formulations and ideology to create rules of life that people should follow to
base their actions on and behave more ethically. It had an objective to show how Kant
viewed freedom and the moral responsibilities that a person should consider (according
to Kant) while exercising his/her freedom, and also to discuss the public decision
making, and to discuss the idea of political self- government into procedural terms.
One of the main purposes of these articles was to discuss the view point of Kant that
economic relations are social relations and as such they co-determine the societal role
of individuals. They also tend to discuss the importance of having universal laws in the
world to rule the world and to justify their existence in the society.
There was also an objective to review and have a conceptual analysis in the
perspective of HRM. These perspectives were Mainstream HRM and Critical HRM.
These concepts were further divided into hard HRM and soft HRM.

The study to determine whether workers should only be used as means and exploited
or effort should be made to win the hearts and minds of the employees to help them
achieve their full potential of work. The difference between an unethical and ethical
structure of human resource management was studied here, and findings were
presented in the article. It can be seen that implementing ethical HRM at the workplace
is a dominant theme and objective in all the articles that were studied.
There are many objectives that have directed the course of the articlesthat have been
used here, but these are the main ones which show the reasons as to which research
was conducted in this area.

ANALYSIS:
The articles which have been consulted and used as a basis for this report all convey
that human resource management is extremely important at the workplace, but are not
according to or following ethical guidelines. People are being misused and abused
under the guise of HRM, which is strictly against ethical moralities and the maxims
provided by Kant. Any human resource management framework must be set according
to ethical guidelines, as HRM inherently deals with people, and that is an area where
ethics are applied the most.Unfortunately, the opposite is taking place at workplaces
today.
The two formulations that Kant has provided us with, i.e. the Principle of
Universalizability and the Principle of Autonomy and Respect, both state the fact very
clearly that human beings are not tools to be used and thrown away. Human beings
must be used as an end and not as means, and also that what is right for one person is
also right for everyone else. However, the gist of each article shows how people at the
workplace are being exploited, in terms of pay or sexual harassment, and how they are
being treated. Discrimination at the workplace is refuting all of Kants ideologies, and it
is saddening to see that ethical and moral guidelines are lost to the world today.
Issues in human resource management today are linked to these two formulations, and
because people fail to adhere to them in the mindless race of profit-making, which has
led to the heightened insensitivity that can be witnessed today. Low pay, harassment,
preferential treatment and promotions, etc, all of these issues are a result of this.
Winstanleyet. al rightly states that ethical perspectives should be central to any good
human resource management agenda and that ethics in HRM should draw from basic
human, civil and employment rights for job security and consultation, social and
organisational justice approaches for pay setting and performance management, and
universalist views based on Kantian principles which focus on treating individuals as an
end in themselves.Ethical issues are part of strategic calculations and developments in
the management of HR, and should be treated that way with utmost importance.

However, a good aspect to all of this is that there has


been increasing interest regarding equality in HRM, in
respect to sociological and managerialist purposes. But the fact
remains that sexism and racism challenges are still
rampant at the workplace. Also, the role of external
agents and stakeholders is ignored in ensuring an
equal HRM when managing diversity.
What managers need to learn is that risk must be managed and profit
made

while

making

sure

that

the

individuals

are

not

being

exploited

or

undermined.Exploitation is not only unethical, but also reduces productivity by a


manifold. Within issues of ethics, equality and organizations, there is also an implicit
issue regarding culture and transnational dimensions within organizations. With the
increasing diversity at the workplace, the management must learn to adapt and
welcome all types of people to the workplace, instead of discriminating against them
and exploiting them. Ethics and diversity related work issues are complex and broad,
and a vast number of problems crop up due to such issues. So, managers must wisely
handle these issues, and in the constraints of ethical guidelines.
Besides this, the author of one of the articles quotes that according to the functionalist
approach HRM is a mechanism for the attainment of organizational goals, thus proving
that a proper HRM framework that follows ethical ideals is essential to fulfill all
organizational objectives. It assumes an individualistic approach (viewing employees as
units) and a unitarist approach (combining purpose and goals) in determining
employment relationships. The author also notes that issues such as inequality, conflict,
domination, manipulation etc occur in the organisation where an unethical human
resource management framework is followed and practiced.
Many critics view HRM as a socially constructed phenomenon that is used by the
powerful for their own means, which seems to be quite an accurate and valid analysis.
In such a case, human resource management and ethics are totally incompatible and
an oxymoron, which management can state and use to justify their exploitation of
workers. The top hierarchy requires employees to sacrifice more of themselves to the

needs of the organization, rather than sacrificing anything of their own, which
completely goes against Kants First Formulation, the Principle of Universalizability, that
states, Act according to that maxim by virtue of which you can will that it should
become a universal law".
Many researchers also identify issues of justice and accountability as an important
direction for future work in HRM, as these aspects need to be addressed with equal
importance as well. Lately, both teleological and deontological theories of ethics have
been used to evaluate various forms of HRM, but such analysis is still at an early stage
and requires significant development.
The articles also present the concept of Hard and Soft human resource
management. The Hard version of HRM is when workers are viewed and treated like
commodities and are terminated when they and their services are no longer required.
This again, goes against the Kantian formulation of the Principle of Universalizability.
However, the Soft version of human resource management views employees as means
rather than objects and it focuses on winning hearts and minds of people in order to
further the interests of the organisation. Clearly, this version is modeled on the ethical
framework provided by Kant, and is thus the one that should be followed by all. Soft
HRM proves that human resource management can be ethical, and at the same time
can successfully fulfill organizational goals without exploiting or harming anyone.
Morality need not be compromised for ulterior motives.
However, some critics state that soft HRM is just hard HRM in disguise, and that it is of
a dual nature. They view it as a control of management over the lives of the
employees.Rather than being a way for employees to fully develop and contribute within
the organisation, HRM practices are a way of intervening in employees lives in order to
ensure they make greater sacrifice to the needs of the organisation. Those employees
who receive fringe benefits and special treatment in return for professional competence
and commitment to the organisation are considered as core employees.Those who are
not incorporated into the organisation and may or may not participate in these benefits
are the periphery employees.

Soft HRM is for core employees which may be expressed through a caringcommitment dialogue and hard HRM is for periphery workers with systematically
eroded skills and depressed earnings. Soft HRM is considered to be more insidious
because when we cannot be assured of the soft nature of HRM practices, and so it is
more hazardous for employees to be exposed to such practices than for them to face
blatant hard HRM practices.
When applying these ideas in the practical world, there is a possibility that the
organisation has no concern in acting in the interest of its employees and that it may act
in what it believes to be the interest of the employees without consulting them. If the
companys only concern is to manage its assets to obtain the goals of its owners and
the workers only concern is to get the best working conditions they can, an employer
will release an employee and an employee will walk away from an employer when it is
profitable for either one to do so. Under these conditions, hard HRM will be more
suitable.
In a hard HRM system, the organisation would have no moral obligation as distinct from
its legal obligations to the employee. Likewise the employee would have no moral
obligation to the employer. When employee engagement combines with responsibility
towards employees we can refer to the moral treatment of employees. It is incumbent
on the organisation to treat its employees as an end in their own right and to bear the
consequences of its behavior toward employees. Also, the practice and policies of soft
HRM(in its true form) implies that the organisation will not only act in the interests of its
employees but do so with the intent of furthering those interests.
Overall, it can be seen that while ethical HRM is hardly being practiced at workplaces, it
can be applied and followed and can also prove to be successful, albeit the small
loopholes and hurdles that will be encountered in the process.

CONCLUSION:
Kant has emphasized on the prevalence of humanistic approach in business
organizations and has presented formulations in which he mainly emphasized on the
humanistic behavior that needs to be adopted in any organization to make sure that
employees (humans) are treated as an end in themselves instead of just a means to an
end. The research that has been conducted in different universities and at different
levels has tried to portray the practices of HRM that are too mainstream these days and
also the behavior that has been adopted to get the task done by employees ignoring the
fact that employees are human beings and they are not just a means to an end but they
are end in themselves. These researches have also presented the fact that now a days,
there is a new concept that is making its place in the business organizations that
actually tries to teach that employees are humans and they should be treated the same
way and must be given their rights and basic needs that will actually raise their morale
and motivate them to commit themselves more towards the organizations which will
ultimately help to achieve the organizational goals.