The concept of work ethics is traditionally discussed in connection with work commitment and moral principles and values shared by the employees in their everyday life and at work. From this point, the role of work ethics as a complex notion is significant in relation to creating a positive atmosphere at the workplace and contributing to the completion of the organization’s goals. There are different views on the impact of work ethics on the employees’ performance and their interactions with colleagues. Thus, on the one hand, work ethics are promoted according to the definite code of conduct adopted to be followed in organizations. On the other hand, work ethics is highly influenced by the moral visions of individuals, and their moral principles can influence their communication at the workplace along with their effectiveness as professionals. Researchers provide different opinions in relation to the connection of work ethics and work commitment along with increasing the levels of job performance. In spite of the fact that it is rather difficult to support only one point of view, the role of work ethics in establishing a positive working atmosphere, cooperative relations, and increasing work commitment and performance is significant, and it is necessary to discuss the factors influencing the phenomenon with references to different researchers’ investigations.
Work ethics is a complex notion that includes such elements as work values, positive working habits, positive attitudes to duties and responsibilities, work commitment, the focus on the organization’s goals, and principles of morality. In this case, absenteeism, unwillingness, failure to follow instructions, tardiness, and aggressive behaviors toward colleagues can be discussed as the violation of work ethics norms which leads to decreasing the job performance results. According to the ideas presented in the article ‘Work Ethic Training Helps Teens Gain Employability Skills’, the work ethics principles can be learned by employees as the associated positive working habits. That is why, it is important to develop these qualities and skills intentionally, with the help of workshops (‘Work ethic training helps teens gain employability skills’ 2002).
However, work ethics can be discussed as both the general notion, applied to the ethics of all the employees working in the organization, and as the conduct of individuals. This idea is developed by Carlin and Gervais who state that employees can be divided into two categories of those ones who are diligent but focus on the working process, depending on the principles of egoism and selfishness, and those persons whose work ethics are based on the principles of morality, and their actions are just without references to the possible material benefits (Carlin & Gervais 2009). In their research, Lowery and Beadles also develop the idea of work ethics as the individual approach to performing and participating in the organization’s processes. According to the findings, following the personal code of ethics and visions of morality, many persons choose to behave negatively or aggressively at the workplace because this model is accepted in society. Moreover, deceptive behaviors are also more frequently observed in relation to the working environments (Lowery & Beadles 2009). Thus, people not only follow their individual visions of morality but also differentiate between ethical behaviors appropriate at work and at home.
Work ethics as any other concept based on people’s morality and behaviors depends on a person’s psychological characteristics as well as their individual particular features. It is stated in the article ‘Ethics’ that complex processes are involved in forming the people’s behaviors in this or that situation. However, it is possible to assume that in most cases, people’s decisions and models of behaviours can be correlated in relation to the questions of everyday morality and work ethics (‘Ethics’ 2012). However, those employees who are inclined to demonstrate their work commitment are not always ethical in their behaviours because the idea of work ethics includes different elements according to which it is possible to discuss the idea as the complex one (‘Ethics’ 2012; Ness et al. 2010).
The idea of work ethics is also analyzed in the scholarly literature in its association with the persons’ religiosity as the influential factor to affect the attitudes to morality at work and at home. Kidron discusses the connection between work ethics, work values, moral commitment, calculative commitment, and the Protestant Ethic. The role of the Protestant Ethic for forming the moral commitment to work and strengthening work values is supported with the pieces of evidence discussed in the research. Nevertheless, there is no similar connection in relation to the Protestant Ethic and calculative commitment (Kidron 1978). Later, the role of the Protestant Ethic as based on religiosity, high moral principles, and work commitment was discussed by Pryor. In his research, Pryor states that work values and principles developed according to the ideas of Christianity can contribute significantly to forming good working habits and relevant working attitudes in relation to cooperation and to increasing the persons’ interest in work along with commitment as the measure to assess the people’s attitude to work (Pryor 1982). The Protestant Ethic as the complex of specific working ethics principles is based on the vision that people should behave morally without references to the place of the aim of the activities. Moreover, they should perform the working duties appropriately because it is their social responsibility (Kidron 1978; Ness et al. 2010; Pryor 1982).
If the principles of Christianity in relation to work are reflected in the approach known as the Protestant Ethic, the Muslims’ vision of the working process, work ethics, and commitment depends closely on the ideas and dogmas of Islam. According to the research conducted by Sidani and Thornberry, the role of religion in determining the aspects of work ethics in Arab countries is more significant in comparison with the Christian world. Work ethics is the influential aspect to organize the working process in the Arab countries and persons’ behaviours are based not only on religion focused on commitment but also on tradition. As a result, the attempts to reform the approaches and concentrate on the progressive and competitive working environment are not effective in Arab organisations (Sidani & Thornberry 2009).
It is important to note that working environments are often diverse in relation to the employees’ gender, age, ethnicity, and religion. That is why, the differences in approaches to work ethics, values, and commitment should be discussed by managers who work with the representatives of different cultures and religions. Walker and Staton pay attention to the fact that the concentration on multiculturalism as the strategy used by managers to operate within the diverse working environment is a real challenge, but it is possible to rely on the basic visions of moral principles in order to develop the code of conduct according to which the principles of work ethics and values can be stated (Walker & Staton 2000). This approach is partially correlated with the opinion supported by Ross that work ethics cannot be compromised in most cases because of violating moral norms accepted in society in general (Ross 1992).
While discussing the persons’ attitudes to work ethics as individual approaches and reflections of the personal visions of morality as well as the responses to the religiosity, some researchers also focus on the psychological aspect to combine the work ethics, individual approach, and work commitment. Ness, Melinsky, Buff, and Seifert state that works commitment is significantly associated with the idea of work ethics as the ability and desire to follow definite moral norms, but the psychological readiness of a person to pay much attention to work is more important. This work commitment can depend on the position of a person within the organisation and on personal attitudes to moral issues and ethical norms as the representation of corporate ethics (Ness et al. 2010). Nevertheless, the spread of ethical or unethical behaviours at the workplace does not depend only on the people’s individual characteristics and personal features because the manager’s tactics and approaches to enforcing ethical behaviours and promoting ethical principles are also important to establish the norms of work ethics in the organisation (Ezigbo 2012). According to Auer, ethical behaviours are important to be supported in organisations because they enforce work commitment and contribute to developing morality as the social value (Auer 2005). From this perspective, everyday moral principles followed by people should be correlated with those norms determined with references to the work ethics in order to stimulate the effective development of work and social environments (Auer 2005; Ezigbo 2012).
Although the majority of researchers interested in the topic of work ethics are inclined to state that the concepts of work ethics, work commitment, and morality are closely connected and this combination can guarantee positive results, Berings and Adriaenssens discuss the question from the other perspective and concentrate on the idea that work ethics or business ethics is connected with the principles of possible enterprising preferences rather negatively (Berings & Adriaenssens 2012). The exaggerated control and focus on work ethics cannot provide employers with the expected results regarding the growth of profits and high employees’ performance.
Researchers discuss the issue of work ethics from several points because this complex notion is closely associated with many aspects of the organisation’s development, people’s approach to work in the form of work commitment, the effectiveness of management to work with various groups of people belonging to different cultures and sharing different religious views. Thus, the factors of culture and religion are also important to examine the person’s attitude to work ethics and work commitment as the possible outcome of the effective strategy which can be used within the company to promote the advantages of the ethical working environment. Employees can discuss the elements of work ethics from two perspectives where they have a personal vision of work ethics in the form of moral principles shared in the everyday life and where they need to follow the norms and rules reflected in the specific code of conduct in which work ethics principles are stated as basics for the whole organisation.
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